Food wastage: what is it and how can we fight it?



The online event held on March 4th started with a presentation by one of our associates, Irene Miraglia, who defined the key-concepts related to food wastage. The main takeaways from the presentation were:

-       Food waste and food loss are not the same thing, the former is linked to food being discarded or left to spoil, while the latter occurs when there is a decrease in mass or nutritional value of food;

-       Around 1/3 of food produced each year is wasted, for a total of 1,3 Gigatonnes;

-       In developed countries the majority of food gets wasted in the final stage, in households (53%), which means that individuals can have a huge impact in its reduction;

-       On the contrary, in developing countries 40% of food waste happens during harvesting and processing level due to inadequate technology, transportation infrastructure, storage and cooling facilities;

-       In terms of volume, the regions that lose and waste food the most are North America & Australia/New Zealand, Europe/Russia, and East Asia. 


 

Food wastage also impacts the society, the economy, but most of all, the environment. For what concerns the impact on the latter, we have to distinguish four different categories:

1.    Carbon Footprint

2.   Water Footprint

3.   Biodiversity Loss

4.   Landfills and incinerators

 

Its environmental consequences are crystal-clear as, if food wastage was a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world and the first one in terms of water consumption. Moreover, the conversion of wild areas into farmland have destroyed natural habitats of different animal species, reducing biodiversity. Lastly, both landfills and incinerators produce green-house gas in great quantities which may thus lead to health issues.

 

 

To know more about this topic, please check the “Food Wastage Report” that you can find on our website.

 

When your food is Too Good To Go wasted

The first guest of the evening was Camilla Serra, Area manager of Too Good To Go, a start-up born to turn an environmental, economic and social problem such as food waste, into an opportunity. If you are not familiar with this company, let me do the honours. 

Too Good To Go works mainly through its app which is pretty intuitive. First you look for your favourite restaurant or bakery, or simply check which ones are available nearby. Once you’ve chosen the place, you reserve your Magic box, a surprise box full of food, close to its expiration date and sold to the customers at 1/3 of its actual value. Lastly, you just need to go to the store, collecting the magic box by showing the receipt, and enjoy your food!

 

It is a clear win-win-win situation as it’s beneficial for sellers, buyers and most importantly, the environment. One of the main issues linked to the environment is in fact climate change, and according to the project drawdown, food waste reduction is the number one solution to fight it. Just to give you an idea of the impact of this start-up, 2.5 kg of CO2 are saved thanks to a magic box and that 62.4 millions are the meals that have been saved from going to waste so far.

 

Too Good To Go is currently operating in 15 countries but it would like to enlarge its target, starting to operate soon in Canada and exploring a bit more Eastern Europe. Among the current partner countries, there is France, in which the company has started implementing the so-called Pact against Food Waste, created by the start-up itself. The pact is made up of fine actions that both individuals and companies can do the help the environment and the one Camilla Serra talked about is linked to date labelling.

 

As a matter of fact, the misunderstanding of the minimum term of conservation (often indicated as “to be consumed before” on food products) causes the 10% of food waste in Europe - the geographical area where the company currently operates. People have in fact the tendency to throw products away if they see that the expiration date has passed by few days while in reality, many of those products are still consumable. By adding on the label the sentence “often good also after the expiration date” and by suggesting to smell and taste those products before throwing them away, people have started to pay more attention and there has been an actual decrease in food waste.

 

Heaven-ly drinks

Our second guest was Caterina Racca, co-founder of Heaven avena, the only Italian start-up focusing on dairy alternatives solely based on oats. There are two main reasons behind the choice of the name. The word “heaven” in fact, immediately reminds us of something positive and, at the same time, the co-founders also exploited a word play as “heaven” sounds similarly to the Italian word “avena” (oats in English), the key-material of their products. 

 

Talking about their products, three are the alternatives proposed to customers: Heaven original, Heaven breakfast (with a cinnamon flavour) and Heaven barista (created precisely for coffees and cappuccinos). The products can be bought directly in-store in Rome and Milan or from the e-commerce (shipping throughout Italy). You can also find Heaven on Too Good To Go but only when the products are close to their expiration date.

 

Why focusing on oats? In Italy, 85% of the population don’t use nor have tried dairy alternatives and the main reason for this is the taste bias: there is this common perception that despite being healthier and better for the environment, diary alternatives are not that tasty, but this is where Heaven enters the game creating delicious products. As a matter of fact, in its first year of activity, Heaven won the Superior Taste Award assigned by the International Taste Institute whose jury is composed by several chefs and sommeliers.

 

Another reason why its co-founders decided to focus on oats is because it’s a superfood and, thanks to the health properties it naturally has, it allows the absorption of cholesterol from other foods and limits its deposit in the arteries. Last but definitely not least oats are an extremely sustainable alternative: among all the different types of milk, it is the one with the lowest environmental impact, taking into consideration emissions, soil use and water use.