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New Feasibility Studies Using Social Innovations to Tackle European Food Waste

Image credit: Udupi Today

European food-waste prevention project FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimizing Waste-Prevention Strategies) — a four-year project (July 2012 – August 2016) funded by the European Commission framework program 7 — is working towards achieving a more resource-efficient Europe by significantly reducing food waste. Along with UK partner WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), FUSIONS has launched a series of feasibility studies around using social innovation to tackle food waste.

For the purpose of the pilots, “social innovation” is described as innovations that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships. The feasibility studies are being launched to test how social innovation can be used to tackle food waste – anything from using the Internet to connect those with surplus food to those who need it, to arranging community-based food preservation programs and events. 

39 proposals responded to the call for ideas between February and November 2013, seven of which will be enacted by FUSIONS’ partners in Sweden, Denmark, France, Austria, the UK and Greece. In the coming months, these projects will be supported and evaluated so that FUSIONS can discover the potential of the proposed innovations and some of the key barriers and opportunities to their delivery.

The seven feasibility studies:

  • Order-Cook-Pay (Partner: The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Sweden) The study tackles canteen food waste by transforming traditional ways of working within the food service sector. It will develop and implement a web-based tool to provide school kitchens and business canteens with accurate information about the numbers of lunches to serve.
  • Surplus Food (Partner: Stop Wasting Food, Communique, Denmark) The study tests a decentralized system to connect surplus food with those in need via the Internet or an SMS service that connects local food producers, retailers, restaurants and catering outlets with local shelters, crisis and refugee centres, women shelters, etc.
  • The Gleaning Network EU (Partner: Feeding the 5000, UK) Gleaning Network EU aims to disseminate best-practice guidance and support for the creation of national gleaning networks to redistribute wasted fruit and vegetables from farms to charities. The study will provide a model for collaboration between growers, grassroots volunteers and charities across Europe, as well as giving specific support to groups initiating gleaning networks.
  • Food Service and Hospitality Surplus Redistribution (Partner: The Hungarian Foodbank Association, Hungary, BIO by Deloitte, France) This study will develop new social relationships between the food-service sector and food banks in Hungary, as well as providing a model for collaboration that can be replicated across Europe.
  • Disco BôCô (Partners: Feeding the 5000 [UK], Bio by Deloitte [France]) Disco BôCô aims to organize collaborative and festive events to bring people together to cook and preserve discarded fruits and vegetables. The project will mobilize local communities to connect and make use of food surplus by developing domestic preservation skills.
  • Advancing Social Supermarkets (Partners: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences [Austria], Bio by Deloitte [France]) This study supports the implementation of “social supermarkets” in the EU based on the experiences of already established markets in France and Austria.
  • Cr-EAT-ive Schools (Partners: Anatoliki [Development Agency Thessaloniki], Greece) The project aims to develop food waste-prevention methods and practical tips to encourage behavior change in the families of preschool children (aged 3-5 years) at home and in the food services of the nursery schools and kindergartens. This will be achieved through the development of a series of innovative educational tools and activities that will involve parents, children, preschool educators and cooks.

According to research released by WRAP last fall, UK households waste £6.9 billion ($11 billion) worth of food and drink, or 7 percent of overall sales, each year. The organization estimates that the grocery retail supply chain produces roughly 6.5 million tons (Mt) of annual waste. Of this, 3.9 Mt is derived from food and drink manufacturers, with the majority being food.

Food waste is not WRAP’s sole area of focus: Last month, the organization released research that revealed UK consumers have a staggering £30 billion worth of clothes in wardrobes that haven’t been worn in the last year, and they annually throw away clothing that is still worth at least £140 million. So, with the cooperation of retailers M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis, fashion brands including Stella McCartney and Ted Baker, and the support of over 30 suppliers, NGOs and recyclers, WRAP launched the “Love Your Clothes” campaign to help UK shoppers reconnect to those lost billions languishing in their wardrobes. 

To learn more about innovative ways companies worldwide are eliminating waste, check out our #WasteNot editorial channel.
For more examples of game-changing multi-sector and -industry #collaboration to solve some of the world's most pressing problems, check out our editorial channel.

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