What to do with dinner leftovers? The problem of food waste and its solutions.

Food waste has become an increasing problem globally. It is not only an ethical and economic issue, but it also reduces the resources we use to produce our food with. Nearly 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the European Union and all actors in the food chain have a role in preventing and reducing food waste. Being more efficient will save money and lower the environmental impact of food production and consumption. According to the European Commission, the following factors contribute to food waste:

  • “Buy one get one free” promotions -> too much food is being produced and purchased
  • The meaning of “best before” and “use by” dates are misunderstood -> edible goods are thrown away
  • Inadequate storage/transport of food

There exist several approaches in order to reduce food waste. For example, you can freeze your food, use up your dinner leftovers, store your food correctly in plastic bags/silver foil or you can buy less food, which will also save you money. As shown in the graph below, food waste from households contributes the highest proportion.

Schermafbeelding 2015-09-15 om 17.21.00

Six high-tech solutions have been established in order to reduce food waste in the Food/drink manufacturing, Food service/hospitality and Retail/wholesale industry. Ensuing, a summation of the programs will be provided.

  1. LeanPath

The software firm developed a program allowing restaurants and institutional food service providers (e.g. hospitals and universities) to track the amount of food being thrown away and use the data to adapt their reduce wasting processes. Clients use scales to weigh their food waste and this data, together with the source of waste, is being stored in the cloud. LeanPath analyses the data and provides reports with practices to reduce waste. Clients have already reduced food waste up to 80%.

Source: http://www.leanpath.com/

  1. Spoiler Alert

Spoiler Alert is a mobile and web-based platform on which users (e.g. supermarkets and restaurants) can post details about their available excess of food. A network of recipients (e.g. food pantries) will receive and use the food. Users have the option to conduct transactions via donations, discounted food sales and waste recovery opportunities (e.g. build a compost bin)
Source: http://foodspoileralert.com/

  1. Local Roots

A new app, which helps farmers and food artisans connect with customers who want to buy local food. The app makes use of location data to generate an available product list and to schedule pick-up or delivery. According to the creators, local farmers and food producers often struggle to connect with buyers; the app creates new opportunities to bring them together, reducing the amount of fresh food that spoils because it’s unsold.

Source: http://www.localroots.com/

  1. Eco-Safe Digester

A device created by BioHitech America that uses heat, moisture and oxygen to break down food into water. It is an on-site digester sending wastewater through the sewer lines to water treatment facilities. The digester makes use of Big Data, allowing users to record details about waste. BioHitech America generates reports allowing users to identify inefficiencies in operations.

Source: http://www.biohitech.com/digester

  1. FoodKeeper

This app has been developed to educate consumers about food safety concerns. It contains a searchable database with more than 500 foods, including cooking tips, food storage advice and information about expiration dates. The app also offers a 24-hour virtual hotline (called “Ask Karen”) for real time answers to food storage questions.

Source: http://www.fmi.org/industry-topics/consumer-affairs/food-keeper-food-storage-database/foodkeeper-mobile-app

  1. FareShare FoodCloud

An app created by Tesco, sending alerts to partner charities (FareShare and FoodCloud) about excess food that is edible but at risk of being thrown away. The food is offered for free and charities can use the app to confirm they want the food. A pick-up will be arranged and the food will be turned into meals and given to organizations like homeless shelters and school breakfast programs. The goal of the app is to reduce waste by immediately putting it to good use.

Source: http://foodcloud.net/fareshare-foodcloud/

I believe these initiatives can definitely reduce food wasting and make everyone more conscious about their own food wastage footprint.

Do you think these initiatives will reduce food waste? If not, what other solutions do you think might work? How large is your food wastage footprint?

Ps: If you like this subject, you should visit restaurant ‘In Stock’ in Amsterdam. A restaurant that collects their products from Albert Heijn stores in order to reduce food waste.


346450, Merel Smit








4 responses to “What to do with dinner leftovers? The problem of food waste and its solutions.”

  1. romylynndevries says :

    Eventhough this is a sustainable way of living, it isn’t really my thing. But I do think it is fun to see how people cummunicate regarding this food sharing. It is not a high-tech solution but I recently saw facebookgroups that take a more personal view on this. For example, in a facebookgroup with people from my home town (A small dutch village) people post food like microwave meals that are about to expire that you can just pick up. I think this is a method of food sharing where people are more likely to participate in because it feels like you know the people that live around you.
    Because this food sharing thing is gaining popularity, I think there will start more restaurants with the same business model of the ‘in stock’ restaurant you mentioned, because it is probably very cheap and does not taste less because it is “left over”. Smart thinking, in my opinion!

  2. 356802pb says :

    Interesting questions you raise at the end of the blog Merel. People are becoming more and more aware of the environment and the consequences of using it. The initiatives, such as the applications you point out, are raising as a result of this awareness.

    Food waste is a problem that has been increasing for years now. And not only the food waste by consumers, but also the food waste of the groceries stores itself are a problem. Take for instance an cucumber, when a cucumber is just slightly awry instead of straight, it will be rejected by the food distributors. This results in a lot of food waste.

    Although I think that the applications based on the reducing food waste are great initiatives. I do believe think that real food waste reduction only comes from a change of mind of the human society. The applications might help a bit, but it still has to come from the people themselves. You have to think; Do I really need this extra cucumber or think what you still got left in the refrigerator. This already solves a lot of problems.

  3. gabriellapimpao says :

    I became interested in your post as a few days ago my flatmate told me that there is an app through which you can share home made food with anyone for little money and he suggested that I use it as I always cook and bake too much (although I consciously take care of wasting as little as possible with freezing food or inviting friends over). Anyway after reading your post I started researching about both initiatives that offer left over food for charity and initiatives/apps that let users share food regardless whether they are in need or not (sometimes for little money). And it turns out that the Netherlands has quite a few national initiatives to decrease food waste.
    The first interesting program that I found is called Hack Food Waste (http://hackfoodwaste.polderhack.nl/) it is basically a hackaton and was won last year by an idea called Surplus that connects local farmers and the dutch food back to overcome food shortage when feeding people in need.
    The second is called Damn Food Waste (http://damnfoodwaste.com/) they organize events (amongst others in Rotterdam) where they cook from food that otherwise would be thrown out and work on decreasing food waste.
    And apart from these two there is a really big amount of such apps all over Europe for example Leftoverswap (http://leftoverswap.com/), Foodsharing (in the german speaking part of Europe), Piqniq (in Hungary), Cookisto (in Greece) or Casserole Club (in the UK) (read more about these initiatives here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28103695). It was great to see that so many are dealing with this issue. If they will be able to eliminate food waste completely I don’t know but it will help for sure and perhaps if the UN’s Save Food Initiative works as an umbrella organization for all these apps and programs these efforts could be distributed in a fair way and channeled to the areas where the need is the biggest.

  4. 439206ma says :

    Thank you for an interesting blog post Merel Smit – this is truly both a sustainability and economical problem which needs to be addressed by every player along the entire value chain. All of your suggestions utilize digitalization to a high degree aimed at exploiting “good enough” food at the of the chain, and even try to close the supply chain loop by returning products back to the chain. Here you are addressing a very hot topic in the academic world of Supply Chain Management – “Closed Loop Supply chain Management”. But as your saying, is there other potential solutions? Yes, I believe there is…

    My proposed solution tries to change the traditional supply chain as we know it, from raw material and outward, into a more “Consumer driven supply chain” in which all the player in the chain is highly interlinked and reacts upon what is happening in real-time at the end of the chain. This means that information (Point-of-sales data, hereinafter POS), and information flow between the chain members becomes critical. Hence, information systems must be integrated in order to make the information move seamlessly through the chain. This has huge implications for food producers/manufacturer in terms of production and inventory of end products by producing and storaging in line with what the customers really want! In the end, food manufacturer shift their production to be more POS-driven. This means that the producer is not producing according to bad forecasts or suffering from Bullwhip-effects, which often results in overproduction and food wastage.

    Sharing POS-data is not enough, the retailer must also share his promotional regime with the producer, so he can plan in accordance to the expected traffic – oh wait, maybe just slash promotions because it leads to food wastage, and embrace “every-day-low-price”. EDLP also makes it easier for the food producer to keep a steady production without being afraid of overproducing and eventually waste valuable food! But thats another story.

    Food manufacturer in collaboration with retail giants has to make their supply chains more information-/data-driven and strive to become a “Consumer-driven Supply chain” – in which food waste can be reduced and economic return increase. As any other sustainability effort, it will require collaboration and a substantial shift in mind-set – by using data!

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