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The statistics around food waste are shocking. Not only do we waste more than a third of the food produced globally, but it accounts for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s named time and time again as one of the top ways to fight climate change, yet wasteful ways are entrenched in our food systems and consumer habits. More and more innovative businesses are looking to change this, however, by giving surplus food a second life.
From Too Good To Go‘s famous waste-saving Magic Bags, to brands like Squished, which uses surplus fruit to create on-the-go snacks, and Rubies in the Rubble, which creates condiments from ingredients that would otherwise go to waste, a growing number of businesses are seeking to take action on food waste. Tea in the Moment is a maker of organic cacao tea which uses an often discarded product – the outer shells of cacao beans – to create a unique sugar and caffeine-free tea infusion.
“The amount of carbon dioxide produced as a result of the production, distribution, consumption and disposal of food and drink is ever-increasing, with devastating effects on our land and water systems,” Tea in the Moment founder Jessica Nester told Speciality Food. “If food and drink businesses (more crucially the multinational corporations) don’t play a part in tackling the food waste issue within their supply chains there will be irreversible damage to our planet’s natural resources.”
Not only does using up waste products cut down on emissions, but changing your business’s ways of working can also help. Jessica says she ensures that her product is only made in small batches to cut down on food waste. “We work with a UK-based manufacturer who doesn’t demand high minimum order quantities that would risk us being left with unsold, wasted product. We also include clear labelling on our packaging to ensure customers know how best to store their products to achieve the maximum shelf life possible.”
Another brand causing a sea-change in the food waste world is Toast Ale. Known for producing beer made from surplus bread rather than virgin barley, Toast Ale uses less land, water and energy, and produces fewer carbon emissions than similar brands.
While Toast Ale is a small player, its method is catching on. The brand is leading a coalition of 25 breweries from the UK and Ireland in creating a limited-edition collection of 26 beers that are made using surplus bread. Breweries including Guinness and Adnams have joined the cause in order to call on world leaders to tackle the climate emergency at COP26 in November.
The new brews come alongside an open letter which highlights reducing food waste as a key measure in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. “We’re sending a message to world leaders, fellow businesses and society at large that we are committed to collaborating in order to tackle a problem that is bigger than all of us,” said Tristram Stuart, author, campaigner and co-founder of Toast Ale.
“As a business dedicated to positive social and environmental change, we’re dedicated to sharing our expertise and ethos with fellow breweries to make progress in reducing these numbers,” he said.
Elsewhere, businesses are tackling complex food waste issues. Halo Oil is a brand that offers waste cooking oil collection for eateries across East Anglia. “Environmental impact is high on everyone’s agenda, and we all have a responsibility to do our bit,” managing director Toby Durrant told Speciality Food. “Sustainability is a key part of this process and disposing of used cooking oil properly is a very easy win for everyone. We at Halo want to demonstrate to consumers and businesses alike that this is one small but vital step they can take to help protect the environment.”
Indeed, in the UK, more than 18,000,000 litres of oil is poured down our sinks and into our sewers, Toby said. Not only is it a big waste of energy, but it also causes problems in the sewer network by creating fatbergs. “During a recent clean-up campaign carried out in Southend-on-Sea by Anglian Water, over 200 tonnes of material was cleared from just 50 miles of sewer. Food service establishments play a major part in the problem when they don’t dispose of their commercial waste oils properly.”
Halo Oil steps in to collect used oil with grease trap installations and give it new life by converting it into biofuel. “Most of the used cooking oil collected is converted into biodiesel which is a more environmentally friendly way of producing a fuel compared to conventional diesel production from oil. It reduces the wastewater created in diesel production by 79% and hazardous waste by 96%. In addition, the fuel creates 47% less particulate matter when burnt and reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67%m” Toby said.
And the business has come up with another method of using waste oil that is even greener. “We simply filter out the food particulates and then use the oil as fuel to power converted diesel generators producing electricity that goes into the national grid,” he said. “The process doesn’t need energy or chemicals so is even better than converting into biodiesel.”
There are many ways to tackle the food waste challenge – from finding innovative ways of using discarded ingredients to giving wasted products new life. While consumers have a role to play in reducing waste in the home, food and drink businesses can make a real difference to our shared future by rethinking their waste.