published on Waste Management World magazine on December 13th 2012 -
"Your garbage is the key to the future survival of our civilization. Don't throw away that future" I said during my TEDxCopenhagen talk a couple of months ago. The message was repeated during my recent panel discussion at Bocconi University in Milan during Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition's 4th International Forum on Food and Nutrition.
At the very same event, Lester R. Brown, founder of Worldwatch Institute and president of Earth Policy Institute, author of 'Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity' and one of the world's most influential thinkers according to Washington Post said: "Food is the new oil."
Food is the new gold
Needless to say, the food and resource scarcity will become the one of the main future issues of human civilisation. A civilisation, which by 2050 will count 9 billion people and according to FAO, will crave two planets of resources. Not just the clime change, but the issues of fighting global food losses and food waste will become on top of everybody's agenda.
And yet. Everybody is waiting for everybody else to take action.
89 million tonnes of good edible food. This is how much the countries of the EU are wasting each year. This is equivalent to 179 kg for every EU citizen - and EU forecasts indicate that European food waste will increase by 42% over the next eight years - to astronomical 126 million tonnes per year.
When we look at food in the waste perspective, it's a loss of a great resource. Not only the waste and losses of food must be prevented in the beginning of the value chain, but the problem must also be addressed in every corner of the value chain: from farmers to transportation, to retailers, to canteens, hospitals and restaurants, consumers and waste management companies.
Can the food losses and food waste be minimised at the beginning of the value chain? Can the surplus food be fed to homeless people? Can we use the bi-products to feed the livestock? Can the unavoidable food waste be used for biogas? And the answer is: yes it can.
Not only can the new paradigm of resource efficiency contribute to rethinking and restructuring our waste and 'use-and-throw-away' society, it can also contribute to green growth. Creating more jobs is on the top agenda of almost every European government.
Intelligent resource efficiency has great potential for creating new jobs, such as manpower for sorting organic waste for the biogas plants, the creation of social supermarkets that sell good food which doesn't meet the cosmetic standards and new education methods on avoiding food losses and food waste, etc. - the possibilities are endless.
And yet… everybody is waiting for everybody else to take action.
Well, the wait is now over and the tables on food waste are turning.
In 2010, I signed a Joint Declaration Against Food Waste in the European Parliament, Brussels. In January 2012, the Parliament has adopted a resolution against food waste, which was partly inspired by the Declaration. 2014 is now being planned to become a European Year Against Food Waste - and a target of reducing food waste in EU Member States by 50% by the year 2020 is about to be set in motion.
FUSIONS is the new black. FUSIONS (Food Use of Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) is the first European alliance against food waste - a grand 4 year long project of gigantic proportions with 21 strong partners from 13 countries such as FAO, WRAP, Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark, Last Minute Market and Wageningen University, etc.
FUSIONS is funded by the European Commission's FP7 and more than 80 European organisations have expressed their support in the project.
The initial objective of FUSIONS is to standardise the measurement of food waste. The next aim is to create a European platform of governmental and non-governmental organisations and companies from the food chain, i.e. industry, retailers and consumer organisations.
The platform aims to provide simplified data that can identify and evaluate new initiatives to reduce food waste. Furthermore, the results will be disseminated to the public, and the development of technical and policy recommendations to the entire value chain and the EU.
The platform will then activate, engage, and support the main stakeholders in the European food value chain in order to deliver a reduction of 50% of food waste by 2020.
The new paradigm is upon us. There is no turning back now - and the waste is becoming the new gold.
Welcome to the new era of intelligent resource efficiency.