Innovators to reduce food waste in Europe

The figures for food waste in the world and in Europe are staggering: billions of tonnes end up in the bin every year. In this unhealthy consumption cycle, everyone has a role to play.

This Euronewsreport from 2020 focuses on some good examples from the food industry. Euronews is a pan-European news channel, partly funded by the European Union.

In Europe, 20% of the food produced ends up either in the bin or as animal feed. This waste has a financial impact: nearly 140 billion euros each year.

The report takes us to the Netherlands, where several companies are finding pragmatic solutions to avoid waste.

In the first of these companies, they use carrots that are no longer suitable for the usual sizing (too small, too big, not pretty enough …) to produce other consumer goods instead of throwing them away or feeding them to animals. They are peeled for use in the food industry, bagged for snacking, or processed into juice or powder. All the ingredients are used, right down to the fibres. To avoid waste, production is constantly adjusted to supply and demand and the timing is optimised according to the different markets (industry, fresh goods, ingredients, etc.).

At the Surplus Food Factory, products left over from the food industry are reused to create products such as sauces or soups from tomato ends discarded by hamburger manufacturers. And it works! The company’s turnover has increased and it has been able to hire more employees, most of whom were previously outside the job market. The director’s stated aim is to serve as an example for other European and global producers, with whom he would like to share his experience.

These innovative projects are at the heart of the European research programme Refresh (for the efficiency of food and drink supply chains). Implemented in five countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain and China) between 2014 and 2019, it has identified methods (for both private and public actors) to recover food waste and create new products.

What are the results? Toine Timmermans, the project coordinator, explains that there is no single solution, but that the research has made it possible to establish a typical scheme. This will be useful for sharing experience at European and global levels and can help to establish negotiated agreements between supply chain actors.

New technologies can also help to reduce waste, as shown by the innovative tool created by a Dutch start-up. Designed for kitchens and restaurants, it is equipped with a camera that photographs waste. The analysis produces statistics on avoidable waste: these will enable the restaurant to adapt the quantities in future purchases and save money while avoiding waste – it’s a win-winsituation. The result is that almost 4000 kg of food could be saved each year for each monitor implemented.

In Dutch supermarkets, products that are about to expire are regularly sold in surprise boxes to avoid losses. Faced with the waste of fresh bread, one supermarket chose to go even further by replacing it with frozen bread. This is also a win-win solution for the shop owner, as it avoids waste while ensuring that customers may buy bread all throughout the day.

There is still a lot of work to be done by everyone before we achieve a drastic reduction in food waste. The European Union has made this one of its priorities: it is one of the objectives of the ‘Farm to Table’ strategy, which also aims to reduce pesticides by 50% and increase organic farming by 25 % by 2030.

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