Around a third of all food that is produced is lot at some point across the food supply chain. Globally, this equates to around 1.6 gigatons (GT) of food waste, of which 1.3 GT is still edible at the time of disposal.
A new technology developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia promises to make food waste a thing of the past, transforming discarded fruits and vegetables into healthy snacks.
Researchers at CSIRO’s Food Innovation Centre have developed a method to return lost food-grade biomass to the food supply chain as value-added ingredients and food products.
Using apple pomace as a model food source, the team developed a process for stabilizing food waste to prevent its physical, chemical and microbial degradation. The end result is a nutritious and functional ingredient that retains its flavor, nutritional values and complies with food safety regulations. The process can be applied to other fruits, vegetables and horticulture products, such as broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, peach, olives and grapes.
How startups are paving the way to a food waste-free world
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The wet pomace can be converted into paste, powder, flake, granule or pellet and used as an ingredient or component in different food products. Powders can be used in smoothies, desserts, yogurts, sauces and jams, baked goods and more. Flakes, granules or pellets can be added to breakfast cereals and health bars.
The value-added conversion of discarded food biomass offers an attractive opportunity for food processors and manufacturers to generate new revenue streams, while simultaneously slashing food waste.
Meanwhile, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF), a major producer of flavors, cosmetic actives and fragrances — including the world's first Cradle to Cradle Certified fragrance — has joined the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) FReSH initiative. The company will focus on FReSH’s food loss and waste work stream, building on its existing sustainability strategy which emphasizes circular design and regenerative products.
“One-third of food produced is lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons annually, with a global cost of more than $400 billion,” said Dr. Gregory Yep, EVP and Chief Global Scientific & Sustainability Officer at IFF. “IFF is deeply connected with the global food industry, and we are committed to finding sustainable and responsible solutions that will lead to a regenerative, abundant and healthy world.”
“As part of this collaboration, we have an excellent opportunity to work with partners and peers who are as committed to creating improved pathways and accelerating transformational change as we are at IFF. We thank WBCSD and EAT [Foundation] for creating this phenomenal partnership and we look forward to pushing the boundaries to ensure more people have access to health, affordable and sustainably produced food.”
This is all welcome news, especially for consumers in London, which may be a bigger part of the problem than previously thought: Earlier this week, a report published by UK food tech firm It’s Fresh found that 28 percent of Londoners waste 10 percent or more of the produce they purchase each week — six percent more than the national average. 37 percent of the 2,000 British adults surveyed for the study attributed the behavior to a lack of separate provision for food waste in their borough.
“The research clearly shows people are deeply frustrated by the food they’re forced to throw away and that this waste is mainly down to food not being used in time,” said Simon Lee, co-founder of It’s Fresh. In fact, 51 percent of food waste producing respondents said they felt guilty for throwing away fruits and vegetables, while 32 percent said they felt sad doing so.
Other studies have pointed to millennials as being disproportionately responsible for the growing food waste problem. According to It’s Fresh’s research, 92 percent of 18– to 24-year-olds throw away fruit and vegetables each week, 30 percent more than the 65+ cohort and 17 percent more than the UK average.
Technology, however, has a critical role to play in shifting these behaviors. “A lot of this waste is genuinely needless — fresh food can and should last longer and more needs to be done with technology to make this happen,” Lee said. A number of food waste innovations are already available to consumers, including natural food-protection products such as Abeego and FreshPaper, a bar code-based device developed by Tesco that reminds shoppers to freeze food before expiry and suggests recipe ideas, and FridgeCam, which takes stock of what consumers have in their fridge and when it expires and sends alerts to buy new items when necessary.
Finally, clean energy solutions provider HomeBiogas has launched a new biodigester — HomeBiogas 2.0 — that transforms kitchen waste into reusable, clean gas. Each system produces up to three hours of cooking gas per day.
The company sees its HomeBiogas 2.0 as offering an opportunity to provide clean energy and natural fertilizer to underserved communities across the globe, particularly in regions of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean where there is limited access to clean energy and formal waste removal. The standard practice in these areas is to cook on wood or charcoal, which creates harmful indoor air pollution and has long-term health implications. The Home Biogas 2.0 provides a clean alternative to these traditional cooking fuels.