Celebrate the New Year with less food waste – Horizon Magazine blog
All over Europe, vacations have become synonymous with overeating and food waste. As the celebrations are marked by an overabundance of festive dishes, the latest reports from the United Nations (UN) World Food Program warn that 45 million people in 43 countries are on the brink of famine.
The good news is that there is a lot to be done to save food, according to Toine Timmermans, responsible for the sustainable food chains program at Wageningen University and Research. “Solutions to reduce food waste are within everyone’s reach,” he said. “Wageningen University and its research are committed to reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.”
It won’t be easy. Even among the waste-conscious Dutch, over 2 million tonnes of edible food is thrown away every year. This is based on data compiled by research led by Timmermans. Data also shows that households are responsible for more than half of this waste, especially during the holidays.
This is why the Dutch national campaign “Together Against Food Waste” is most active during the holidays, calling on consumers to keep food waste in mind during their celebrations.
Launched in 2018, the campaign was motivated by the global figure that 6% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste.
Why reducing food waste is the perfect New Years resolution
Promises to exercise and eat healthier are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. But what if this year’s resolution extended to reducing the amount of food going to the trash?
This is a commitment in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal that the European Union (EU) is committed to achieving.
” The end of the year approaches. Now is the time to reflect on your resolutions for the coming year, ”said Timmermans. “These don’t interfere with the holiday spirit, in fact, they make it more enjoyable. The holiday season can help the environment and avoid wasting overspending – more money for gifts. ‘
The tips are straightforward and easy to follow. “Start by making a plan, write a shopping list and stick to it. Then, “cook for your group size, so weigh the portions before you cook.” When the meal is finished, save the leftovers.
Timmermans is also quick to point out the difference between “use before” and “best before” expiration dates. ‘Use before’ is an instruction and should not be ignored. For food safety reasons, food should be used before this date or discarded. For this reason, consumers should be regularly informed of these dates and check to avoid food waste.
Most products with a “best before” date are often safe to eat within a few days of the date, eg pasta. “Use your senses,” Timmermans advised. “By looking, smelling and tasting, the quality of the product can be assessed. “
Timmermans has over 15 years of experience in reducing food waste. As coordinator of REFRESH project, he and his team formed coalitions aimed at creating positive social change. While this initiative ended in 2019, the experts involved in the project continued to be part of the EU Platform on Food Loss and Waste.
“Although REFRESH ended in 2019, its legacy lives on,” said Timmermans in reference to the Dutch No Food Waste Week, the founding of a national event to halve food waste and the charity United food waste free.
The results speak for themselves. In 2019, researchers found that every Dutch citizen wasted 7 kg less food, rejecting only 34.3 kg compared to 2016 and 29% less compared to 2010.
“Without a doubt, consumer behavior and therefore social norms around food waste are changing for the better,” noted Toine Timmermans, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Agriculture around the festivities
Back on the farm, the latest data shows 700 million tonnes of crops are wasted each year in Europe alone. This includes the increased harvest of all the fruits and vegetables we associate with the season – oranges, satsumas, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sage, onion not to mention the humble carrot.
Efforts to reverse this wasteful trend are underway across Europe. An initiative, supported by researchers and industrial players from 11 European countries, consists of reusing residues and by-products from agriculture and agri-food in products intended for the food, packaging and of agriculture.
In Spain, Alexandra Poch and Cristina Fernandez work together at IRIS Technology Solutions to reduce waste, mainly in the olive and tomato industries. As co-coordinators of the AgriMax project, they supervised the construction of two revolutionary pilot factories in Spain and Italy, to sustainably process the staple foods of the Mediterranean diet: olive and tomato.
From their humble beginnings in the countryside of southern Europe, these facilities promise to revolutionize the way we use crops and not only eliminate waste, but also put it to good use.
The two factories can use different crops as raw material, allowing them to operate throughout the year and avoid downtime caused by seasonal fluctuations and variations in yield. The peak period for the olive harvest is December, while the tomato picking begins in April. Harvest waste will therefore be available even during winter and the holiday season.
Seasonal tints of tomato skin and seeds
“Lycopene, the powerful antioxidant found in the skins and seeds of tomatoes, may be in the trash, but it’s actually high-value waste, so it’s extracted by processing plants. “said Poch. With its bright red color, it is also a natural dye. Lycopene can be used to create a super stable color palette for a range of foods and drinks – from carbonated drinks to fruity yogurts and mouthwatering candy on the holiday table.
When the olives are processed, they are pressed to produce olive oil. The solid residue, olive oil pomace, sounds great but, as a thick slime, is inedible. The good news for waste recycling is that it is full of chemicals known as polyphenols.
“We have demonstrated how inevitable crop and food processing waste can be turned into several high-value bio-based products for the food ingredients, food packaging and agriculture industries, even at Christmas,” said Poch .
Timmermans sums up the topic of home food waste with a festive flavor. “While enjoying your festive feast, you can support food waste initiatives. Make jam apples and vegetable stems into a pretty salad. ‘
The research in this article was funded by the EU. If you liked this article, consider sharing it on social media.