How can food waste be combated through modern laws and technologies? | Politics and Economics In-depth analysis with a broader perspective from DW | DW

1.36 million tonnes – that’s how much Spain spends on food every year, according to Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas, which equates to 31 kilograms of edible food for every citizen.

Madrid plans to reduce this number through a new set of laws to curb food waste. The government passed a bill that fined supermarkets to prevent the disposal of surplus food. This law, if passed by Parliament, would require restaurants to pack waste in special boxes to take home. Spain hopes to enforce the law by early 2023 to limit the amount of food lost. These measures are intended to address a global problem; Although millions of people suffer from hunger, food is wasted every day all over the world, which requires the intervention of governments and individuals to prevent it.

While the law has yet to be passed in Spain, the situation in France is different. There supermarkets are not allowed to destroy unsold food, but instead donate and many charities or food banks offer many meals thanks to these foods. The law was introduced in 2016 following a popular campaign by activists working to fight poverty and food waste.

Even in Italy, in 2016, legislation was passed that made it easier for companies to donate food, allowing the donation of expired food, but it is still good. This latest change is one that Simone Welte, a nutrition expert for Welthungerhilfe, a German aid organization fighting hunger around the world, would like to see in Germany as well. “The process of donating to food banks needs to be better regulated and donated expired food should be allowed because many of them are usually still good,” Felte told DW.

On-site food waste treatment

In addition to government actions, there are many city- or state-level NGOs working with farms, retailers, and restaurants to redistribute surplus food. One such organization is FELIX PROJECT which has been treating hunger and food waste in London since 2016.

About the activities the project is interested in, Amy Heritage, Project Felix spokeswoman told DW. “It’s basically a giant logistics operation.” The NGO owns four large warehouses in different parts of London, as well as a large kitchen. They collect food that would have been thrown away by more than 400 suppliers like supermarkets and restaurants. The food is then sorted and controlled by a large number of volunteers, before being redistributed to around 1000 local organizations with which the Felix Project collaborates. “Food receiving places include charities, food banks, kitchens and schools.” Heritage adds Hudaha, “Many people think food is garbage, but this is not true, the quality is really high.”

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

To continue the fight against food waste and make it more efficient, organizations like Project Felix need two things: funding and volunteers, according to Heritage. Warehouses, machines, kitchen appliances, all have a financial cost and require the support of people to maintain the ability to distribute, receive and sort.

Lots of vegetables and fruits are thrown away at home even though they are still edible

How can technology help?

Winnow, a UAE-based company, is using artificial intelligence to help large commercial kitchens reduce food waste. This includes companies, hotels, restaurants and cruise ships in 45 countries around the world.

The way the Emirates organization works is “simple,” spokeswoman Maria Sano told DW. The organization is working to provide participating companies with litter bins equipped with scales and cameras that record information about food and quantity dumped. This information is collected in daily, weekly or monthly reports and chefs can use it to adjust the amount of groceries they buy.

Customers who have large offices also have trash cans with this device to see what portions of food in the cafe their employees are throwing.

“If people always get rid of sweets, for example, then they should buy less, and if there is a lot of tomatoes in the trash, it may be time to serve the salad without tomatoes because you do not want to eat. they “, says Sano.

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

A symbolic image of various cereals and legumes

How much grain is needed and how much is left over .. Winnow helps managers of large restaurants and kitchens with this to reduce food waste

What else can we do?

“According to the German expert Welte, people in the global south rarely throw away food because they have to enjoy what they have.” But it can be helped by improving food storage before it is delivered to vendors. “There is still a lot of traditional storage, For dry goods like cereals and nuts, it would be good to use airtight bags; This prevents it from being damaged.

In Germany, 40 percent of food is thrown away at home, which is about 75 kilograms of food per person per year, making individual consumers the largest source of waste. “The consumer is accustomed to the fact that there is always an abundance of food,” says Villa.

And “before the current inflation, food was cheap in Germany.” In order not to lose food, she advises people not to throw away food immediately because of the expiration date. “Food should be sniffed first and tasted to see if it is still edible. “Yogurt is usually valid after the printed date, and old apples can also be squeezed and eaten.” She advises Filten to reduce the amount of purchases, “the risk of going to the store again is better than the risk of throwing food away later.”

Carla Blaker / Alaa Gomaa

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