Recipes Against Food Waste

Food waste was among the major topics discussed during the 2019 edition of Slow Fish, which concluded in Genova last Sunday. As recently as a decade ago, the waste associated with food production was barely mentioned in popular conversation, but now it’s a hot topic and most people recognize that it is part of our daily life and a structural feature of the current social and economic paradigm.

One third of all food produced globally is wasted somewhere along the food chain, along with various resources such as agricultural inputs, energy, packaging, water, and land. During the conference Recipes Against Food Waste, which took place in the Slow Fish Arena, three organizations presented their approaches to reducing waste in the food system.

The Cuki Save Bag: Changing consumer perception

Cuki has been creating food packaging with sustainable materials for over 50 years, and today Cuki Cofresco brings together the Cuki, Domopak, Cuki Professional, and Domopak Spazzy brands and product lines to offer everything from environmentally friendly aluminum packaging and baking paper, to recyclable and biodegradable garbage bags, to professional cooking and food storage products. Cuki works a lot with aluminum because recycling this material only requires 5% of the energy needed to make it new. In Italy, 70% of aluminum is recycled. In 2011, Cuki partnered with the Italian NGO Banco Alimentare to launch the Cuki Save the Food project, which recovers and redistributes food surplus.

Through this initiative, Cuki has donated over 150 thousand of its aluminum food containers to Banco Alimentare’s Siticibo program, which collects unused meals from restaurants, markets, and catering services and gives them to people in need. The partnership with Cuki has allowed Siticibo to recover over 15 million meals. The Cuki Save Bag, launched at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016, grew out of the Save the Food project. A 2018 Cuki survey revealed that 58% of restaurant customers were ashamed to ask for a doggy bag if they didn’t finish their meal, so Cuki decided that restaurants should take on the responsibility of offering consumers a way to save their extra food, destigmatizing the use of doggy bags. The Save Bag is an aluminum doggy bag with a cardboard carrier with handles.

Twelve billion dollars of food are wasted in Italy every year, and 21% of this waste is generated in the catering sector; raising awareness about food waste among restaurant goers and giving them a convenient way to take their leftovers home in an easily recyclable container can contribute greatly to reducing waste. Hundreds of restaurants in Italy now offer the Cuki Save Bag.

The Cuki Save Bag. Photo:

Leibherr: Smart refrigeration

The first step in combatting food waste is identifying that there is a problem to be addressed; the second step is getting people interested and enthusiastic about making a change. But awareness and willingness to waste less must be followed up with intelligent practices. One such practice is proper management of your refrigerator: By setting temperatures correctly, positioning foods properly based on their humidity, and rotating products within your fridge, you can keep food fresh for longer.

The German company Liebherr developed and patented a technology called BioFresh, which is the basis for refrigeration systems that significantly extend the shelf life of household food products by delivering optimal temperatures in different zones and compartments of the refrigerator. Storing food at the correct temperature not only preserves it better; it also maintains flavor and nutrients for longer. Liebherr’s refrigerators incorporate energy saving systems, and Liebherr provides customers with tips on how best to manage the contents of their fridges in order to minimize waste and keep foods as tasty as possible for as long as possible.

Ricibo: The power of networking

Ricibo’s Ricibox. Photo: Ricibo Facebook page

Ricibo is a project based in Genova and headed by the Community of San Benedetto al Porto. It is a network that endeavors to expand existing initiatives and create new ones to recover and redistribute food, simultaneously combating waste and poverty. Ricibo is based on the idea that we need a shift in paradigm from a linear model that seeks to reduce the production of trash as an output, to a circular or systemic approach that reduces waste at its sources, and turns it into an input.

In addition to creating long-term resilience and economic opportunities, the latter model also generates significant benefits for society (by turning waste into surplus, which enhances food access and security) and the environment (by reducing pollution and the needless exploitation of resources). Ricibo works between associations and the municipality, linking the micro and macro levels through practical activities; it involves hundreds of associations and services and thousands of volunteers, distributing hundreds of tons of food surplus to tens of thousands of beneficiaries and saving hundreds of thousands of euros in the process. Concrete results inform the real time functioning of the initiatives, which allows for a greater overall effectiveness than the individual components would be able to achieve.

Ricibo helps to co-design services that are tailored to particular companies and associations, and develops parameters and measurements that can improve management. It uses social media as the basis for a sharing economy in which experiences and best practices can be easily exchanged. One of Ricibo’s initiatives has been to get school children interested in the problem of food waste by having them weigh the food that they don’t eat. Another has been the introduction of the “Ricibox” branded doggy bag to restaurants, which raises awareness among consumers and presents them with a good practice.

Food waste is a complex issue and requires a complex set of solutions. In 2016, Italy introduced legislation outlining what can and should be done with food waste, and it is now much easier for individuals, companies, and regions to engage in practices and initiatives such as those described above. Changing waste disposal systems on a municipal level through differentiating waste within households has a role to play, as does creating a shift in consciousness so that food is seen as something that must never be wasted. Networks for recovering food are another part of the solution, and the introduction of technologies, both simple and advanced, is also crucial. Given the number of constructive responses to the problem of food waste—a problem with economic, environmental, and social justice implications—there is no excuse for anyone not to do their part.

By Charles Barstow

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