With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email thread and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
Food waste is a staggering global problem: Roughly a third of the food produced for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations Environmental Program. Meanwhile, 805 million people around the world are estimated to be chronically undernourished. The juxtaposition is enough to put you off your lunch.
We have a long way to go before we fully address this problem, but a select few companies are taking innovative approaches to cut those figures down to size. From small startups to major multinationals, this week we tip our hats to 10 companies that are rethinking food waste.
Through the company's Day-End Dough-Nation program, Panera bakery-cafes donate approximately $100 million worth of unsold bread and baked goods every year.
With full participation from all Darden restaurants, the program has donated more than 77 million pounds of surplus food to hungry families since its inception, totaling more than 100 million meals.
The chain announced that its Cannock, England, store will be directly powered by tossed food waste, with more waste-powered stores expected in the future. "It was the right thing to do, but also it was the right commercial thing to do," Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury's, told Fast Company. "Putting food waste into landfill costs £150 per ton, and the alternative of [turning it into energy] is significantly cheaper. It's putting that waste to true, positive use."
But Canadian grocer Loblaw is bucking the trend: Instead of throwing these fruits and veggies away, the grocer will soon sell them at a discount at some of its outlets in Ontario and Quebec, Loblaw announced last month.
Enter AgriDust: a concept that turns 3-D printing on its head. The brainchild of Italian designer Marina Ceccolini, AgriDust is a 100 percent organic 3-D printer feedstock. Around 65 percent of the material is made from common food waste items like coffee grounds, peanut shells, tomato husks and citrus peels. The remaining 35 percent is a binder made from potato starch.
The material can be used to replace plastic in certain short-lived products, like packaging or plant pots, and could also be used to print out samples before making a final product, Fast Company reported. "These technologies are mainly used to create the first prototypes and objects that serve only for a first phase of the study," Ceccolini told Fast Company. "I don't want to eliminate the use of plastic, because in some sectors that is unthinkable, but in the case of disposable products, you might start to think and act differently."
Using his computer science background, Karmani set out to create a convenient, safe and efficient online food-donation marketplace to help restaurants move surplus food to nearby soup kitchens and shelters. Founded in Chicago last year, his startup Zero Percent has already donated 537,000 meals to more than 200 nonprofits -- converting what was once considered trash into wholesome nutrition for neighbors in need.
"We want to grow this from where we are now at 1,500 pounds per day to 15,000," Karmani told Starting Up a Startup. "This is a hard problem because there are so many variables involved such as time, location, and size of delivery. The real challenge is meeting those at the supplier side and the need side."
The grocers installed an anaerobic digestion system at their distribution center in Compton, California: It takes in the food and puts out biogas, providing power for the campus where the center is located. “Anything that can’t be sold or donated comes into the system,” Kendra Doyel, a spokesperson for Ralphs and Food 4 Less, told GreenBiz.
Image and video credits: 1) AgriDust 2) Original Unverpackt 3) Sainsbury's 4) AgriDust 5) Zero Percent 6) Intermarché
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia, PA.