How business and governments combat food waste

Review of institutions and services

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), around one third of all food produced goes to waste. This amounts to 1.3 billion ton of products yearly. This number is a result of various processes throughout the supply chain, from harvesting to disposal of unsold or unconsumed products by groceries, restaurants, and households.

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Scope of the problem

Потери различных типов продуктов
Quality food, wasted in a given year, would be enough to feed around 2 billion people. Ironically, around 1 billion remains malnourished to this day.
Apart from that, production of the food that is not needed leads to environmental damage, as it:

  • occupies approximately 1.4 billion hectares of land, including — more than China;
  • uses 21% of consumed clean water;
  • amounts to 8% of greenhouse emissions

The U.S. alone spends $218 billion per year to produce, deliver and ultimatily utilize leftovers.

#learnmore For more information on consequences of food waste check infographics by World Bank:

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When governments step in

The most well-known example of an entity trying to reduce food waste is food banks. After checking the quality of leftovers, food banks pass the products to homeless shelters and other charities, or distribute it themselves.

#background The world’s first food bank opened in the U.S. in 1967. Europe followed in 1984, while the first Russian food bank was opened only in 2012.

Развитие ассоциаций банков продовольствия

#learnmore Detailed account of history and legacy of food banks can be found in the FAO report

States foster waste reduction through various other measures:

Laws. In France and Belgium large supermarkets are prohibited from throwing away leftovers before offering they are offered to food banks.

Fines. In some parts of South Korea households pay for organic waste depending on its weight.

Incentives. Some of European countries and the U.S. offer tax deductions to companies that give their leftovers to food banks. This measure is highly used by hotels, cafes and restaurants, where food cannot be stored for an extended time.

Our insider in the Russian food industry:

«Small and middle Russian businesses gain little state support. If it was introduced, we would see a rise in the quality of food on the market.
Currently, governmental food control is limited to ensuring sanitation compliance. Companies prepare for regular check ups, but easily forget about the rules in between them.
Expired food is either sold with discounts or recycled into other products, such as sauces. Using overdue food to feed the employees is also a common practice.
Businesses understand, that giving expired food away or recycling it is easier for them than simply throwing it away. That is why government stimulae would work.»

#learnmore Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report on how governments can influence food waste.

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Business practices

Many businesses (although not Russian) offer different measures to fight food waste. In 2016 we even saw an emergance of a specialized startup accelerator — The Good Kitchen.
Below we list examples of companies and services that managed to reduce food waste, either by improving its transportation and storage, or by giving it away.

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Harvesting and logistics

FAO estimates that 40% of food waste in developing countries happens during its production. Some startups are developing ways to change it:

VitalFields works on increasing agriculture efficiency. That is done by monitoring the weather and crops quality, scheduling necessary works and forecasting possible crop diseases.

BluWrap measures the temperature inside shipping containers, which extends its expiration date.

BT9 XSENSE provides analystics for the whole chain of food logistics.

#learnmore One of the new technologies that is put to work to reduce food waste is Internet of Things (IoT).

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Tracking and prolonging food lifecycle

Some products are thrown away even due to unadequate storing conditions. Here are some of the companies that offer consumers help in keeping their food fresh:

Amazon’s Alexa, upon hearing "ask Save The Food", gives advice on how to properly store a product.

Apeel Sciences uses wasted fruits and vegetables to keep other plants fresh for longer.

Bluapple specializes on devices that remove ethylene found in fridges. When contained in a closed storage with fruits and vegetables, the chemical component facilitates their rottening process.

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Reducing leftovers

Products and dishes left unsold at groceries and restaurants can be sent to food banks. However, some startups aim to reduce the gross amount of leftovers in the first place:

Mintscraps offers data-driven solutions to find the worst performing products. It also allows companies to compete in cost cuts, amount of food given to charity, and recycling efficiency.

KDC Ag recycles food waste into fertilizers and animal feed.

Karma and OLIO are iOS/Android apps that link restaurants willing to sell daily leftofers with discounts to customers.

More examples on companies working on reducing food waste can be found on Wired, The Guardian, GreenBiz and AgFuderNews.


Also published on Medium.