Artificial city

How to fight food waste: from laws to artificial intelligence | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW

1.36 million metric tons – that’s how much food Spain wastes every year, according to Luis Planas, the country’s agriculture, fisheries and food minister. This equates to 31 kilograms (68 pounds) per person of perfectly good food that is thrown away each year.

Madrid plans to reduce that number with a new set of regulations aimed at limiting food waste. The government has approved a bill that would fine supermarkets up to €60,000 ($57,000) or up to €500,000 for repeat offenders. The law, if passed by parliament, would also require restaurants to offer so-called “doggy bags” for customers to take home their leftovers.

Spain hopes to have the law in place by early 2023 to limit the amount of food that ends up in the bin rather than on someone’s plate, and to reduce environmental costs.

While millions of people go hungry, every day around the world, food is wasted at every link in the production chain, from farm to fork. The measures currently on the table in Spain are one way to tackle this global problem. But there are also many other approaches that governments, organizations and individuals are taking to reduce food waste.

Laws and regulations: the top-down approach

Spanish parliamentarians will still have to vote on the new law. In France, it is already illegal for supermarkets to destroy or throw away unsold food. They have to donate it instead, providing meals to charities or food banks. The law was introduced in 2016 after a grassroots campaign by shoppers and campaigners fighting poverty and food waste.

Italy introduced legislation in 2016 that made it easier for businesses to donate food, including removing the rule that food past its best before date could no longer be donated.

It’s a change that Simone Welte, nutrition expert at Welthungerhilfea German aid organization that fights against world hunger, would also like to see in Germany.

“The food bank donation process needs to be better organized,” Welte told DW. “And it should be allowed to give foods that are past their best-before date, because they’re usually not bad yet.”

Fighting food waste locally: Volunteers and associations

Beyond government action, there are many NGOs at the city, county or state level working with farms, retailers and the hospitality industry to redistribute surplus food so that they are not wasted. One of these organizations is the Project Felixwho has been fighting hunger and food waste in London since 2016.

“It is primarily a logistics operation,” Amy Heritage, spokesperson for Project Felix, told DW.

A giant logistics operation ― the NGO has four large warehouses in different corners of London, as well as a large kitchen. They collect food that would otherwise be thrown away by more than 400 suppliers, such as supermarkets and restaurants. Then the food is organized and controlled by a large number of volunteers, before being redistributed to the approximately 1,000 local organizations with which the Felix project works. Places that receive food include charities, food banks, community kitchens and schools.

“A lot of people think food is rubbish,” Heritage said. But that’s far from true: “The quality is quite amazing”

By the end of the year, the Felix Project estimates it will have distributed the equivalent of 40 million meals across London. In 2021, it was 30 million meals. In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, the number stood at six million meals.

To continue to fight food waste and to do so more effectively, organizations like the Felix Project need more than two things, according to Heritage: funding and volunteers. Warehouses, cars, kitchen supplies – it all costs money and it takes a lot of hands to keep a large logistics operation running smoothly.

AI: How technology can help reduce food waste

winnow, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help large commercial kitchens reduce their food waste. Customers include businesses, hotels, restaurants and cruise lines in 45 countries around the world.

The way it works, Winnow spokeswoman Maria Sanu told DW, is simple: Bins in Winnow customers’ kitchens are equipped with scales and cameras that record information about the food and how much. pier. This information is compiled into daily, weekly, or monthly reports that chefs can use to adjust the amount of groceries they buy.

How many peas is enough, and how many is too much? Winnow helps chefs plan how much groceries they need.

Customers with large offices also have trash cans with this equipment to track which parts of the cafeteria food their employees throw away.

“If people are always throwing away parts of their dessert, maybe the cake slices need to be smaller,” Sanu said. “If there are a lot of tomatoes in the bin, it might be time to offer the salad without tomatoes as well.”

The process, whether for industrial kitchens or corporate cafeterias, helps chefs improve their food production processes, “saving money and reducing their environmental footprint,” Winnow says on its website.

What else can we do?

In southern countries, Welthungerhilfe nutrition expert Welte said consumers rarely throw food away, “because they have to make do with what little they have”.

But the storage of food before delivery to retailers can be improved. “There’s still a lot of traditional storage out there,” Welte said. “For dry goods like cereals and nuts, it would be good to use airtight bags. This keeps pests out and prevents mold.”

In Germany, on the other hand, 40% of the 75 kilograms of food that is wasted per person per year is thrown away in private households, making individual consumers the largest source of waste.

“The consumer has become accustomed to the fact that there is always an abundance of food,” Welte said.

The 75 kilograms of wasted food that goes straight to the trash is equivalent to a third of a household’s weekly groceries.

groceries at the supermarket

Consumers in industrialized countries are used to being able to buy what they want, when they want it.

“Before the current inflation, food was cheap in Germany,” Welte said. “There’s just no awareness of what’s going on in his production.”

So what can individual consumers do to waste less food? Welte’s tip: don’t throw anything away just because the expiration date has passed.

“Smell it and taste it to find out if it’s still edible,” the nutrition expert said. “Yogurts are almost always good after the expiration date. Old apples can be used to make applesauce.

Also: Buy smaller amounts first, even if it means having to go back to the supermarket later in the week. This way, you don’t risk the food spoiling.