Innovation That Matters

Top three ideas to tackle food waste


What steps can we take to tackle our mounting food waste problem?

Today – the 24th of April – marks Stop Food Waste Day, an international day of action dedicated to educating people on the scale of our food waste problem and igniting change to help tackle it. A staggering 33 per cent of all food we make for human consumption annually ends up getting wasted somewhere along the value chain – that’s about $1 trillion worth of food lost every year. Fighting food waste has been on the global agenda for a long time, so why is the issue only growing? And more importantly, how can we combat it? 

Across every industry, circularity is gaining ground as a way to efficiently tackle the mountains of waste we generate, not least in the food and drink sector. In our workshop at last month’s ChangeNOW summit in Paris, we posed the question: Is 2024 the year that circularity finally goes mainstream? During the session, Global Brand Ambassador of Discarded Spirits Sam Trevethyen shared some of his learnings from the perspective of the zero-waste drinks brand. Although the workshop highlighted that circular brands face unique challenges that can be tricky to overcome, from tackling public misconceptions to scaling up, it’s also clear that widespread circularity is the only way for us to live within our planet’s limits. Just last week, the eighth edition of the World Circular Economy Forum took place in Brussels, gathering key global stakeholders and circularity thinkers to discuss why and how we can implement circular principles to preserve natural resources, reduce emissions, and cut waste.

In honour of Stop Food Waste Day and inspired by the thought-provoking discussion at our ChangeNOW workshop, we’ve broken down the fight against food waste into three key ideas.

1. It’s time to get creative

“We create waste, therefore it’s on us to do something with it,” Sam stressed last month at ChangeNOW. “But when you start to see waste as a new ingredient, as a creative unlock, that’s super powerful.” Instead of seeing food waste as something that needs to be disposed of, it’s time to recognise the hidden potential of this massively underutilised resource. Quoting Douglas McMaster, a chef and the owner of zero-waste restaurant Silo London, Sam summarised: “Waste is a failure of the imagination.” 

Creative thinking will allow us to reimagine waste streams and once again turn them into something useful – and even delicious. This is the ethos of Discarded: coffee cherries can instead become a rich Cascara Vermouth, and instead of being thrown in the bin, banana skins can be transformed into a fruity Banana Peel Rum. Waste is only waste if you don’t know what to do with it.

2. Other sectors can (and should) get involved

When it comes to tackling our biggest environmental problems, including food waste, working in silos is completely impractical: sharing knowledge and best practices across departments and industries is essential in accelerating the change. That means that when it comes to food waste, it’s not necessarily just up to food and beverage brands to make a difference – there’s a massive opportunity for other sectors to make use of this waste too.

For example, what if your next pair of shoes could be made from banana peels and nutshells? That’s exactly what one Swiss startup envisions, in a bid to tackle food waste and shoe-derived microplastics simultaneously. Or if you don’t fancy wearing it, one New Zealand-based company is transforming food waste into a renewable energy resource instead.

3. Small changes add up

Reading about the scale of our global food waste problem can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult to know where to begin making an impact when you’re one person, household, or small company seemingly working alone. But even the tiniest of everyday actions will build to something much greater over time. As Sam quoted at the workshop, sharing insights from another inspiration of his Anne-Marie Bonneau (@zerowastechef on Instagram), “We don’t need 100 people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need 1,000 people doing it imperfectly.”

There are many tools out there that make fighting food waste more manageable, even if you are doing it ‘imperfectly’. For instance, one UK-based app helps families keep track of the food they’ve bought, sending reminders when items need to be eaten up. Or, why not try a home bin that turns scraps into farm feed? Instead of sending their waste to landfill, customers simply scrape their waste into the bin, which transforms it into nutrient-rich feed ready to be picked up by the company.

Dealing with our waste problemmeans thinking outside of the box, and the Springwise Library isn’t short of innovators thinking differently to help companies and individuals cut down on food waste. If you want some extra inspiration, take a look now.