How High Tech Tackles the Problem of Food Waste
Waste not, want not.
That thing in the back of your refrigerator is growing. Whatever it was—the takeout you didn’t finish, the mashed potatoes from Sunday dinner three weeks ago—it’s something different now. Better throw it out before it takes over the entire fridge.
Collectively, Canadians throw out about 170 kilograms of food per person every year. Not only does this represent about $1,450 of our annual household grocery bills, it wastes increasingly finite resources (land, water, fertilizer, energy). And perhaps most importantly, it represents a major contribution to the warming of our planet in the form of carbon dioxide and methane emissions from landfills. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of CO2 on the planet, behind the United States and China.
Collectively, Canadians throw out about 170 kilograms of food per person every year.
Over the past few years, most major cities globally have implemented food recycling and composting programs. Ultimately, however, it may be Silicon Valley that saves the day. From waste monitoring apps to smart packaging to new ways of harvesting bioenergy from old food, tech start-ups are focusing on solving the problem of food waste. San Francisco–based BluWrap is building a better shipping container, which has computer sensors that monitor and control oxygen and prevent spoilage. Vancouver start-up FoodMesh has created a food matchmaking system that connects businesses with extra food to charities and other non-profits that need it. Flashfood’s app offers consumers in London, Ontario the ability to buy deeply discounted produce and other food before retailers toss it in the trash.
All good news, to be sure. But these innovations do nothing to cure us of the underlying problem: the belief that we can simply throw away what doesn’t tickle our taste buds. When 800 million of us worldwide don’t have enough to eat, casually throwing away the takeout isn’t simply a problem—it’s a statement to those who are getting by on less than the recommended daily amount of calories. Worth remembering the next time you shuffle whatever-it-is to the back of the fridge.
Photo courtesy of Flashfood.
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