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Food waste’s second life

Posted on 16 October 2018.

Food waste can have a fate other than finishing in the trash. Discover initiatives for giving a second life to the leftovers on our plates and food industry rejects.

Every year a third of the food produced for human consumption is dumped. This is what emerges in a study conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In France alone, 1.2 million metric tons of food end up in the garbage can.
A lost opportunity since all this food could be used to help people in need - as well as being a significant issue for the planet because even though it’s biodegradable, all this waste harms the environment.

In municipal landfills, decomposing food waste is one of the principal sources of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, when they rot tomatoes release methane - a gas with a warming potential 25 times higher than that of CO2. Cooking oil discharged into sinks considerably disrupts wastewater treatment. It is estimated that 1 liter of oil contaminates 1,000 liters of water.

To solve this problem, businesses and researchers are developing solutions to give food waste a second life. New materials, fertilizers, cosmetics, energy – and even chemicals. Learn about all these ingenious initiatives that help to create a food waste circular economy.

Reused... for food

"Sustainable" restaurants are emerging all over the world. They serve meals cooked using food that hasn’t been sold or is unfit for sale (because it doesn’t have the right appearance) and would otherwise be thrown out.

Some breweries recover unsold bread from bakeries and supermarkets, grind it to make a flour and use it in beer-making. It can replace up to a third of the cereals usually used in the brewing process.

It can also be used as fertilizer

At Plan d'Orgon, in the Bouches-du-Rhône in France, fish scraps and other organic waste from the sea are sent to a plant to be made into fertilizer.

New materials are being produced

Fish skins and pineapple skin fibers can be used to make high-end leather. A flexible and tough alternative to classic leather!

Once processed, tomato skins and egg shells can in part replace "carbon black" - a material used to strengthen rubber tires.

Who would've believed it? Harvard researchers have found that after being shredded shrimp shells make it possible to produce fully biodegradable bioplastic in just 3 weeks! On the same principle, Decathlon has developed a water sports shoe made from powdered oyster shells.

Organic waste can also be used to make building materials: mushroom bricks, banana leaf carpet and acoustic panels made with dried potato peelings!


Food waste is also a source of energy

Used cooking oil can be converted into a fuel that releases very little CO2. In Barcelona in Spain, biodiesel is used to power vehicles and in France to illuminate the city of Saint-Etienne’s football stadium.

US researchers have developed a biological fuel cell that generates electricity through oxidation and the decomposition of tomatoes.

In the Netherlands, a soluble coffee production plant turns coffee grounds into energy. A short circuit circular economy loop!

Some make cosmetics...

The UK company FRUU makes lip balm from fruit waste and plant ingredients.

... and others extract chemical molecules

In France, a laboratory in the Oise region transforms agri-food waste into chemical molecules. These are then used to make solvents, dyes and polymers (plastic, rubber, polystyrene). A breakthrough for plant chemistry!