When food goes uneaten, the resources used and emissions created in producing that food are squandered. According to the FAO, developing countries suffer more food loss during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, more food is wasted at the retail and consumer level. Knowing where and when it occurs is key to reducing waste. The challenge is to both reduce waste and to transform it into something useful, rather than harmful, to the earth.
Around the globe, people are finding innovative ways to decrease, use, and convert waste, and they’re doing so in ways that are tailored to specific regions.
In Uganda, where only 20 percent of the population has electricity, engineer Lawrence Okettayot is cutting food waste at the point of harvest with his Sparky dehydrator. The device runs on biofuels from garden trimmings, leaves, and grass, and dries produce before it spoils. This is significant in a country where fully 40 percent of fruits and vegetables are discarded because there is not adequate refrigeration. The device enables farmers to turn what would have been leftover food into nourishment that lasts through the dry season, which helps families achieve greater food security.
In the United States, 31 percent of food waste occurs at the consumer and retail level. A company called Apeel hopes to help decrease the amount of food that consumers let spoil—like the moldy lime in the back of the fridge. Apeel uses materials from peels, seeds, and pulp of edible fruits and vegetables to create an invisible extra protective layer on produce that helps it last up to three times longer.