“If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the US and China,” Claire Lancaster, Head of Food & Drink at WGSN, says about the environmental impact of food waste.
Brands are finding new ways of managing and repurposing food waste to mitigate the associated carbon footprint. Much food waste ends up in landfill, generating 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Globally, almost 2.5bn tons of food goes to waste annually, accounting for approximately 40% of food grown worldwide, according to a 2021 study by WWF and Tesco.
Food waste is talked about on social media, evidencing consumer interest. According to WGSN proprietary data, mentions and interest in “food waste” and “compost” have risen across all segments since 2018; the penetration rate grew from 0.5% to 4% within Mainstreamers. Peaks of interest took place in the first months of the pandemic and in March 2021, coinciding with the UK’s first Food Waste Action Week.
Food waste is being converted into useful materials. N&E Innovations, a Singapore-based medtech startup, created a wet wipe from discarded durian husk. According to founder Didi Gan, 12m tons of durian husk are discarded every year in Singapore.
To tackle food loss and encourage customers to reduce edible food waste, British retailer Marks & Spencer will remove the best before date from over 300 lines of fruit and vegetables across its stores.
In the beauty industry, South Korean brand KraveBeauty uses vineyard waste for its upcycled oil cleanser.
How to action this
As consumer awareness about the scale and impact of the issue grows, strategies to reduce and better utilise these streams are on the rise. Some of these solutions, such as edible, invisible coatings that extend a food’s shelf life, are gaining traction and rapidly moving into the mainstream. Others such as 3D printing remain further from the market but present opportunities for brands to consider.
Explore the product potential of waste material streams. Collab with biotechnicians and designers to engineer products from food waste.
Read the full Sustainability Bulletin: August 2022 for a round-up of the key sustainability happenings this month.