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Europe Unleashing Full-Scale Attack on Food Waste

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

The issue of food waste has rightfully come front and center in the Western world, with staggering figures such as 40 percent waste in the US alone forcing us to find solutions. The problems that lead to food waste lie throughout the chain from production to distribution and consumption, which means countless opportunities for organizations across all sectors to innovate to tackle it.

Europe is leading the way with a rash of new technologies and collaborations working to minimize waste generated in the food cycle, many of them at the retail level.

Original Unpacked is an old idea with new or no packaging, so to speak. Like yesteryear's grocery stores, products sold at this German store will bear no packaging - the idea is to cut down on packaging waste by eliminating unnecessary wrappers and boxes, and encourage shoppers to only purchase the amount they need. Instead, Original Unpacked will carefully select items and present them to the shopper in bulk with information on the product including nutritional information and origins. Shoppers will need to carry their own bags and refill containers to buy items from bulk bins, produce shelves or an electric filling station for beverages. The concept has found immense support and has already received twice the amount of its fundraising goal with six days remaining.

Robuust, a similar zero-waste grocery store, plans to open in Antwerp, Belgium next month. Customers will need to bring their own bags or jars, failing which they will be able to purchase them at the store.

But opinion is divided on the feasibility of the idea of zero-waste stores.

"It sounds appealing to people who don't understand the full impacts of packaging through the supply chain. If they're handing out glass jars, they have to consider cleaning and transporting the heavy jars - which will be far more than if they were plastic," sustainability consultant Julia Hailes recently told edie. "But most importantly, I think this will lead to far more food waste - and that has a much bigger impact than waste packaging. One supermarket tried no packaging on fruit and veg - and it increased food waste in-store by 50 percent. And that's without considering how the food is transported to the store in the first place."      


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