36 minutes | Apr 22, 2021

The Science of Re-purposing Food Waste

The Science of Re-purposing Food WasteWhile there are many products available, including our hemp produce bags, and consumer education for reducing food waste at the household level, we discovered (in this episode of Gutsy Matters Podcast) that in Australia 31% of food grown never leaves the farm due to tight supply contract specifications for food quality from major grocery chains and wholesalers.  So while we can certainly implement many practical solutions at the household level we still have a big problem that needs to be solved on a larger scale.This conversation with Dr Polly Bury gives us hope that the solution may be closer than we think and that there is great interest fast tracking the possibilities of re-purposing excess food or even parts of plants that have never been considered food, like pineapple skins and sweet potato leaves and vines.We talk with Polly about food production and the application of different food re-purposing and even materials re-purposing, such as glass, plastic and card.  The more we can re-purpose the less that goes to landfill.  "we don't like the word 'waste' - we take food that if we don't do something with it, it will become waste and we try to turn it into some useful resources"  Dr Polly Bury.Reducing food waste isn't just the responsibility of consumers.While there are great consumer awareness campaigns to reduce household food waste we still send edible food, food scraps and excess food to landfill, and it amounts to 34% of all the food we buy!.  We all know the process - buy fresh food with good intentions but our lives are busy, food spoilage happens and the uneaten food (sometimes untouched food!) ends up in the waste stream destined for landfill.  We talked with Mark Barthel from Fight Food Waste CRC about food waste impact on the household budget (throwing out 34% of the food we buy is a big cost!) and the environmental impact for our valuable natural resources.  In that conversation we also talk about the benefits of planning meals and the cultural differences around family meals and the difference that makes to the use of leftover food and the proportion of food prepared.   While we can all get better at keeping track of expiration dates/best-before dates/use-by dates on food we buy to reduce household waste we really need a whole industry approach.  At the household level we can't take care of food waste issues that occur along the supply chain and we can't take care of organic waste that was never considered food in the first place.  Innovations in Agriculture can play a big part in food waste reduction.This is where Polly's work comes in!  In this conversation we talk aboutmaking valuable products from things that are food byproducts, such as pineapple skins and coffee grinds,finding uses for leaves and vines that have until now been considered unavoidable organic waste part of the sweet potato crop in Australia,the difficulty in making bioplastics from ingredients that are also a food ingredient, such as starch, and the dilemma of how that ingredient should be used,we discuss the innovative products that are being made from parts of the crop hat can't be sold as fresh food (like the Upple product we introduced in this episode),making packaging products from foods and fibrous materials as we move towards a circular economy,the need for processing facilities in Australia for plastic, glass, paperboard and rubber re-processing,the potential for tonnes of food to be anaerobically digested to produce methane,and, the difficulty of mixed waste streams (that's when we put the waxed carboard box in the recycling bin which contaminates the waste stream and then instead of being recycled the waste goes to landfill - we also talked about this in this episode).  While the excess food amounts to tonnes of food it's great to hear that there are so many options for re-purposing and overall food waste reduction.   Food safety and food security are still big issues for developed countries, especially as our populations are increasingly concentrated along the coastlines and major cities.  Polly's work with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will surely help in creating successful food waste strategy that considers the complexities of supply chains, our valuable resources and labour costs.  With the general population more willing than ever to take action to make sustainable changes such as reducing waste to landfill and using compost systems it's time for councils and governments to begin make it possible for us to participate in better waste management, re-purposing and recycling.
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