By food futurist, Tony Hunter
Consumers being homebound under COVID-19 seems to have sparked a much greater interest in sustainability. Food waste and plastic pollution are major focuses of these sustainability concerns, being acknowledged as significant problems in our homes and supermarkets.
So, what do you do at home with that unused food you need to wrap and refrigerate? Wrap it in plastic and it contributes to the plastic problem, leave it unwrapped and it probably goes to waste. Yes, you can use containers, but some pieces of food are oddly shaped, and containers are inconvenient. And if there’s one thing, we know it’s that for consumers convenience trumps just about everything else.
Well, a couple of companies are tackling these problems. On the in-home front, we have Australian company Great Wrap, founded by Julia and Jordy Kay. They’re manufacturing the world’s first fully compostable cling wrap made from potato waste. It’s food safe, apparently having passed FDA and EU food safety standards and so is a direct substitute for petroleum-based food wrap. It’s also being developed for use as pallet wrap, a major source of waste for any company transporting goods. According to the Kays, some 150,000 tonnes of pallet wrap is disposed of each year in Australia alone.
Another company tackling food waste is Apeel Sciences. They manufacture a spray-on coating for fruit and vegetables, made from agricultural byproducts such as orange peels. A 2,900 store test in Germany late last year showed some highly promising results, with 50% reduction in avocado waste, and a 20% increase in sales. Avocados, mandarins, and oranges are now being offered with the coating. In the US, Walmart are selling unwrapped Apeel coated ‘plastic free’ cucumbers. Considering that each cucumber we buy is wrapped in the equivalent of five plastic straws this is a great result.
We see reports of up to a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. But now as consumers and in supermarkets, we don’t have to choose between food waste and plastic pollution.
A world without food waste or plastics based on fossil fuels would be a great improvement.
Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.