The world tackles food waste

Cities around the world are beginning to recognize the need to make changes in areas like waste management and environmental stewardship to ensure a more sustainable future for its citizens. IN highlights four international cities that are taking innovative actions to address these pressing issues.

High-tech food waste disposal

In densely populated South Korea, where there are an estimated 505 people per square kilometer, food waste disposal is a big issue.1 In 2013, the government implemented a high-tech waste disposal system, charging residents for their food waste disposal based on weight. Food waste is measured using pre-paid plastic waste bags or waste baskets with built in scales and radio frequency identification (RFID chips) that record a user's details and the amount of waste they dispose of. Each household is charged per kilo of waste discarded and receives a monthly bill–with the average household paying just 1,300 South Korean Won (around US $1) a month.2 To date, the 145,000 South Koreans using the new system have reduced their food waste by 30 percent.3

Rethinking shelf stocking

We’ve all been guilty of reaching to the back of the grocery shelf to find products with a later sell-by date than the products displayed at the front. As a result, older products expire and never get sold.

To tackle this waste, the Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize is stocking fewer products on the shelves and waiting for the older products to sell out before restocking with fresher products.4

Food rescue and distribution

In the Bahamas, an estimated one in six people is chronically hungry. The humanitarian organization Hands for Hunger was established to reduce food waste and eliminate unnecessary hunger by rescuing food and redistributing it to those in need.

Each week, two trucks collect on average 2,500 lbs. of surplus food from over 30 restaurants, hotels, wholesalers, bakeries and farms. This food is donated to 14 outreach agencies which collectively serve over 10,000 meals each week to the 43,000 Bahamians living in poverty.5

Mushrooming with yam and cassava waste

Cassava and yam, two root crops, are staples of Ghanaian cooking and each year 3.6 million tons of peels and discharged parts are generated as waste during the preparation process.6 Researchers from the European Union funded Gains from Losses of Root and Tuber Crops (GRATITUDE) project have found a way to turn these post-harvest losses into a profit. Their study shows that the compost from yam and cassava peel can be used to cultivate edible mushrooms. After injecting mushroom spawn in to the compost, mushrooms start to sprout around five days later. Researchers hope that Ghana will soon be able to produce around 650 tons of mushrooms per year from cassava waste and several pilot projects are already under way.7 Mushrooming can not only reduce food waste but can also create new jobs and encourage entrepreneurship in developing countries.