Zero Waste Festival: Targeting food waste


At the first-ever French event dedicated to reducing everyday waste, solutions for preventing food waste abounded.


“According to the FAO, up to one third of all the food produced around the world is scrapped or wasted before it can be consumed by people. In France, ADEME estimates that about 10 million tons of food are thrown out every year.” Under the big top of the Cabaret Sauvage, Bruno Lhoste, author of La Grande (sur-)bouffe – Pour en finir avec le gaspillage alimentaire, a book on combatting food wastage, presented a whole series of numbers and studies that all point to the same alarming finding: today, far too much food winds up in the trash. And this at a time when 795 million people around the world (1 out of every 9) are starving, according to the World Food Programme.

This waste happens “at every level,” as emphasized by the speaker. “In the fields, at the distributors, at consumers’ homes,” he listed into the mic.

In the midst of this somber tableau, though, some progress has been made. By way of an example, a French law on food waste was adopted last February, prohibiting supermarkets from throwing out food and making their unsold goods inedible.

In addition to legislation, a number of solutions have also been developed by entrepreneurs and non-profits. In fact, some of these were invited to the Zero Waste Festival, including Alexandre Bellage, co-founder of the Optimiam mobile application. The app helps stores sell off their food surpluses before their expiration dates by offering last-minute specials to nearby consumers. “A win-win system,” the young startupper calls it. The solution now boasts 70,000 users in France since its launch in October 2014.

For its part, the non-profit association Le Chaînon Manquant (“The missing link” in English) has decided to tackle a different aspect of food waste. “How is it possible that we see people going hungry while others are throwing food away?” director Julien Meimon asked the audience. The association took this question as its starting point when it adopted the mission of serving as the missing link between distributors with surpluses and consumers in need. Refrigerated trucks pick up unsold goods from retailers and then go directly to neighborhood organizations that distribute them the very same day. In this way, thousands of foodstuffs are saved from the dump, enjoyed instead by people in the most precarious situations.

In the fight against food waste, some even go so far as to adopt the strategy of a circular economy, by recycling their kitchen waste. Outside the Cabaret Sauvage big top, journalist Marie Cochard came to introduce her new book, Les Epluchures (Peelings in English). Standing in front of a table full of avocado and onion skins, carrot peels and eggshells, she explained to the public how to give them a new lease on life. “Did you know that onion peelings make an excellent natural hair dye?” the journalist tossed out to a very attentive audience. She went on to talk about the limescale prevention properties of oyster shells, avocado skins as excellent fabric dyes, carrot peels that make great bouillon, and the list went on.

Once those natural resources have been used and reused, they still don’t have to end up in the trash. This is where composting comes into play. Let’s head over to the festival area dedicated to that practice. Thierry Sin of Vers la Terre was there to explain the basics of vermicomposting. The audience was full of questions: “Can you do vermicomposting in a studio apartment?” “What if you have pets?” Sitting alongside them, the speaker took the time to answer each of their questions. And to present the detailed workings of this invention, which involves processing biowaste into liquid and solid fertilizer, thanks to the gluttony of little worms. To conclude his presentation, he explained how to use that fertilizer… to grow more food! This is a closed-loop system and an example of what the circular economy can be, reminiscent of Lavoisier’s famous saying, “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.”

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