What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “food waste?” You might think of words like “trouble”, “number 1 contributor to environmental problems”, “compostable”, or “gross”. The last thing you think of is probably “delicious”. But that is definitely not the case for a Netherlands-based initiative called Waste Is Delicious (Verspilling is Verrukkelijk in Dutch).
Waste is Delicious is in fact a part of a nation-wide program called United Against Food Waste. Supported by a local university, it takes foods which are destined to be in compost pile and put them to a good use.
This program is also supported by Dutch supermarket chain called Jumbo (among other 18 Dutch companies). They want to change the world’s perception of garbage or waste. They transform the things that usually end up in the bin into delicious, consumable food (and some are turned to products of daily needs).
With this, you won’t find the idea of disgusting scraps, for you can see veggies scraps coming back to life as soups and chutneys. Stale bread becomes beer (like in this article) and cider is made from blemished apples. What about fruit skins, you may be asking? They turn into soaps. Not exactly food, but still useful.
George Verberne, an entrepreneur who runs the chain branch said that the sales have exceeded expectations, “We sold about 700 items in one week. It’s double what we sell for organic products. I’m proud and very happy we’re the first to do it.”
The program’s website states that food waste has a hidden impact. It’s mainly “In the production, packaging and transport of food. Remember, for example that 15,000 litres of water is needed to produce 1kg of beef,”
“So when we throw away a packet of minced meat, we not only throw away the meat, but also the water. And you can also think of the plastic packaging that was produced for nothing and the CO2 that was emitted during transport.”
So as you can see, this program is committed to reducing and managing food waste. The effect? People of Netherlands have celebrated 15% decrease from 2010 food waste two years ago.
Dutch government is aiming to cut the amount of discarded food by half in 2030, and they want to be the first European country to achieve this goal. A great ambition, i should say.
Related reading: You can educate little kids about food waste, too! Learn here.
What fuels the program
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) people in the world throw away one third of all food produced globally that worth almost $1 trillion every year. Considering that world hunger is still a major issue (in fact it’s rising), this is unethical. And it’s also destructive to the environment.
There are at least 200 entrepreneurs across Europe that sells products using surplus food. However, the portion is small and the impact is limited. To make an impactful change on food waste, something bigger is needed.
Based on this fact, Toine Timmermans of Wageningen University and Research asked for shelf space to display products which are made from food waste and he wanted to see how customers responded.
When Timmermans did a presentation, Verberne saw this and he got an idea to turn food waste into some things that are appealing and meet supermarket standards. He offered to help Timmermans, who has worked on food-related issues for 15 years. “If you want to solve food waste and achieve sustainable food systems, you need to work with people who have access to the market, like retail stores,” Timmermans said.
Chantal Engelen, the co-founder Kromkommer (one of 18 companies participating in “Waste is Delicious”), said some companies reject around 30% carrots simply because of their unattractive appearance. The rejected carrots are usually two-legged, too big, or too crooked.
In order to save the carrots from being thrown away, Engelen’s company buys them. “We buy them straight from the grower for a fair price and turn them into healthy food,” said the co-founder. Other than that, Kromkommer aims to change how consumer thinks. They want them to accept “ugly” carrots so that shops are selling them in the future.
Price doesn’t matter to eco-conscious customers
Usually people becomes a bit more careful when they know that the price for eco-friendly products are more expensive, but the Dutch are unfazed. Timmermans is glad that the high pricing has not discouraged customers.
The eco-friendly devotee said, “We cannot sell for less, because for the social innovators, this is their source of income, so working together and the message, ‘by buying this, you’re contributing to a better world’ is a very important one.”
On the other hand, Verberne believes that food waste products have a bright future. “A lot of colleagues called me and sent me emails asking, “How does it work? Can I also do something like this?’,” and he told them, “I think we have to do this. This planet deserves it.”
The Dutch are not the only one with this idea, though. Salt & Straw from Portland is making delicious ice cream from food waste as well. Other than that, Companies like OzHarvest from Australia are campaigning about ugly food. They’re doing this to significantly reduce the devastating 7.5 million tonnes of annual food waste.
Another example is AquaBotanical which produce bottled water which are made from fruit and vegetable. Dr. Bruce Kambouris, the creator, said, “I couldn’t understand why the juice concentration process discarded this large aqueous fraction that had lots of nutrients from the source fruit and vegetables.”
Even so, the mentioned companies still have quite a long way to catch up to the Dutch’s initiatives. But of course we all have to start somewhere, don’t we? After all, there are plenty of chances in eco-friendly business (click this article to find out more) and you can make the world a better place, too.
Do you think other countries will follow Netherland’s footsteps? Tell us what you think in the comments below. Leave a like if you enjoyed reading this article, and be sure to read our other article about similar issues here.