Revolutionizing Food Waste Reduction through Technology

Revolutionizing Food Waste Reduction through Technology

Food waste has reached alarming proportions in the European Union, with a staggering 88 million tonnes of food wasted each year across Europe, costing a massive €143 billion. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that globally, about one-third of all food produced is wasted. This issue spans every sector of the food value chain, with 70 percent of waste originating from food service, retail, and households, while the remaining 30 percent occurs during production and processing stages, as reported by FUSIONS, an EU project focused on quantifying food waste in Europe.

Beyond the financial burden, reducing food waste offers wide-ranging benefits. The European Commission recognizes food waste as an “ethical” issue, given that wasted food contributes to approximately 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while many Europeans still suffer from hunger. Paradoxically, while food is discarded, around 43 million Europeans cannot afford a quality meal every other day, according to the European Commission.

In a recent report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in August 2019, a three-step approach was proposed to effectively address food waste: set targets, measure the problem, and take action to solve it. The target has already been established, with EU member states committing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which aims to cut food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 50 percent before 2030, along with reducing food loss in the supply chain.

Now, technology is playing a pivotal role in empowering businesses, governments, and individuals to measure their food waste accurately and take meaningful action to reduce it.

Measurement: Assessing Food Waste As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” Understanding the scope and scale of food waste is essential to devise effective solutions. By early 2019, several European countries, including Denmark, Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK, were already measuring food waste or loss within their borders. However, since a significant portion of food waste occurs locally, municipalities and individuals, both in countries that track food waste centrally and those that don’t, have significant opportunities to measure their own waste.

Various technology startups are aiding food companies in organizing and managing data on unsold food. One such startup, Spoiler Alert, founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates, analyzes unsold inventory among manufacturers and wholesale distributors to identify potential waste and suggest ways to mitigate it. The app also facilitates communication and provides tax support for donating food to a network of nonprofit partners. Large organizations like Sysco, a food service company, and HelloFresh, a meal kit provider, have already adopted Spoiler Alert, resulting in a 50 percent reduction in food waste and a doubling of donations within a year.

Winnow, another innovative solution, focuses on the hospitality industry and employs technology to automate waste management further. Their photo software identifies waste in the trash bin, determines its weight, and compiles data into a report highlighting the amount and environmental impact of the waste. By improving measurement capabilities, Winnow estimates that adopters of their service can save up to USD$35,000 (€31,815) annually.

Cameras are also being employed to prevent waste proactively. ImpactVision, for instance, utilizes hyperspectral imaging, a technology combining photography with the measurement of electromagnetic radiation, to evaluate the freshness, quality, and shelf life of foods. This innovation aids food companies in making informed decisions about shipping specific fruits to various geographic markets, ensuring freshness and minimizing waste, without the need to cut into the fruit or rely on sample testing.

Action: Building a Circular Food Economy Reducing food waste aligns with the European Union’s vision for a circular economy, where the value of products,

Emma Turner
PR Manager

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