Think small enough and food wastage could be slashed

In case you haven’t seen it already, we’ve just published a food waste supplement as part of our Resource Revolution campaign.


The issues explored inside cut across the waste, energy and water sectors and also highlight the different approaches being taken by retailers, local authorities and suppliers.

Food waste arouses strong emotions among commentators and I think it is fair to say that there is rarely agreement on how to deal with this relatively modern phenomenon.

Without question unavoidable food waste has great potential as an energy resource. With resource security scaling the political agenda, diverting this valuable material to emerging sectors such as anaerobic digestion is preferable to dumping it in landfill.

It’s when we start looking at avoidable food waste that competing interests come into play. To those in the waste industry this material can be an invaluable feedstock that contributes to the running of AD facilities or in-vessel composters. To supermarkets, arguably it’s a valuable income stream. If people consumed less, profits would shrink. To those in the third sector supporting the homeless, some food waste is essential to provide meals for those left on the margins of society. The list goes on.

But tragically so much food is wasted because there is an oversupply of food in the western world. It’s like we’ve been programmed to be suspicious of half empty shelves in supermarkets. Unless the shelf is brimming full of produce, there must be something wrong with it.

And like the covers of glamour magazines where famous actors have had every pimple or slight kink removed by designers in our quest for perfection, the same principle has been applied to our food.

This leads me in a long-winded way to a fascinating supplement in Saturday’s Guardian on the future of food – nanomaterials in our diet, which considers how this “manipulation of food and packaging” can potentially bring multiple benefits .

Advocates of the technology claim that nanomaterials could reduce food wastage by using sensors embedded in the packaging that would warn consumers of chemical or bacterial contamination. Nanostructures on the surface of packets could also help to kill bacteria on contact, extending the lifetime of food inside.

Who needs to think big when there are small solutions at hand… responses kindly sought below once you’ve chewed on and digested the above.

Nick Warburton

Topics: Waste & resource management
Tags: anaerobic digestion | food | Food waste | packaging | resource revolution | resource security | technology | water
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