During a recent panel conversation at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, food systems experts discussed opportunities for food policy and the private sector to address food loss and waste. The conversation was hosted by Food Tank and the Nordic Council of Ministers.
According to research from the United Nations, if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China. For years, panelists note, advocates have been working to bring attention to the issue of food loss and waste. But Yvette Cabrera, Director of Food Waste for the Natural Resources Defense Council, believes that the world has reached a “reckoning point where we have to move away from pure awareness and actually start changing habits.”
Ertharin Cousin, President and CEO of Food Systems for the Future says that solutions will not look the same in every region. “Food loss in the Global South and the Global North are very very different.” In the Global South, much of the food loss and waste stems from a lack of cold storage and refrigerated trucking. Countries require investment in infrastructure to keep food from perishing.
On the other hand, in the Global North Cousin explains that “the solutions we talk about…are directly related to consumers and retail.”
One approach gaining momentum in the United States is legislation that seeks to address waste at these levels: a ban on organic waste. Cabrera says that nine states have implemented these bans, which prohibit organic waste from entering a landfill or incinerator. And because composting is typically more expensive than conventional disposal methods, it forces eaters and businesses to think twice about letting food go to waste.
The private sector is also stepping up, with companies like Winnow and Tetra Pak thinking about ways to leverage technology to reduce food loss and waste.
“This is in the economic interest of the hospitality industry to actually understand their waste in more detail and prevent it,” says Marc Zornes, CEO of Winnow. “It’s entirely possible to make substantial change.”
Companies in the hospitality industry are using Winnow’s technology to accurately measure and manage food waste. IKEA, for example, has cut food waste in half and saved US$38 million by using the company’s tools.
Despite these promising changes, Zornes doesn’t believe that progress is moving at a fast enough pace.
Cousin agrees, arguing that eaters haven’t yet grasped the urgency of taking action. “Unless we can build the urgency with consumers, we won’t move forward.”
Watch the full conversation below.
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