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Innovations to Combat Food Waste

By Larraine Roulston :

As people discard food in small amounts, most would claim that they waste very little; however, that perception usually doesn’t match reality as found in a recent survey by the University of Alberta. Its waste audits from participating residents revealed that food waste on average was much higher than individuals had realized. As awareness about this issue is rising, so are some clever innovations to address it. For example, in order to tackle food waste, Beijing’s buffet restaurants may soon add a deposit to customers’ bills. The deposit’s purpose is to prevent people from overfilling their plates; it will be returned if the majority of the food has been eaten.

Another instance is that schools are starting to display Food Rescue Stations, whereby students donate untouched food for charity. Similarly, Vulture Culture was formed by a group of students at British Columbia’s University of Victoria. These young adults eat for free by harvesting leftover food from cafeteria trays. They call it tray-raiding and, although there are concerns about germ exposure, its members are selective in what they choose and believe the risks aren’t as high as people believe. Megan Dewar says, “We are promoting food sharing and food recovery through an inclusive environment.”

With profits earmarked for charity, the grocery store Wefood in Copenhagen is offering expired food. The idea has become so successful that they are opening a second branch. Project leader, Bassel Hmeidan stated, “We look, we smell, we feel the product and see if it’s still consumable.” Food donated by local growers and supermarkets is collected and sold by volunteers at discount prices.

In Toronto, a Trash and Wasted charity event to be held in March will feature creative chefs who will repurpose ingredients such as fats, bones, organs and leftover bread into interesting dishes. The Royal Dinette in Vancouver has held five similar Ugly Duckling dinners. “These events not only raise awareness of food waste and recycling but also give chefs an opportunity to explore different textures and techniques with ingredients that might not be pretty but have amazing flavors,” says general manager Chen-Wei Lee. One of the examples he noted was a syrup made from the shells of snap peas, mixed into cocktails.

Restauranteurs realize that, besides not feeding those in need and paying for garbage disposal, landfilling editable food also releases tons of extra greenhouse gases. In New York City, the Blue Hill & Mimi Cheng’s restaurants are offering their newest and delicious food waste dumplings. Further north along the Atlantic coast, three Syrian newcomers to Canada set up their booth, Piece of the East, at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market to stimulate taste buds by blending food waste into their home country’s recipes.

British grocer Waitrose stopped shoveling its leftovers into landfills in 2012, and now has started running its delivery trucks entirely on biomethane gas generated from food waste. By partnering with CNGFuels, their trucks can travel up to 500 miles on rotting food. This renewable fuel is far cheaper than diesel and emits 70% less carbon dioxide. The City of Toronto’s “green fleet’’ will also run on renewable biomethane later this year. In cooperation with Enbridge Fuels, city trucks will be powered by its residential organics collection program.

Bruised Produce. Expired Food Dates. Peelings, Cores & Stems. These organics nourish the hungry, satisfy students, offer amazing cuisine, create compost, and fuel fleets. In my opinion, their stocks have a much higher value than gold.

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Larraine authors illustrated adventure books on composting and pollination at www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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