9 impressive innovative technologies to combat food waste and single use plastic waste

Food waste is a fact of life and a serious issue across the supply chain. From agricultural production to consumption – there is not one stage where food is not wasted. According to the FAO, 1.6 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is wasted each year globally. It is not surprising to see there is a greater need for solutions that can help combat food waste. But when one thinks of innovative technologies in the food sector, the first thing that comes to mind is a delivery app like Uber Eats or Deliveroo. However, technology has integrated into the industry in many ways – simply to combat food waste. Don’t worry – we have done the groundwork for you. Here are nine best innovative technologies according to us:

1.
Revolutionary food labelling

Food labels can often be misleading in terms of when the contents have gone bad. The expiry dates alone are often ‘best by’ rather than ‘usable by’ dates, which leads to vast quantities of edible food being discarded. New technology is being used to design food labels featuring unique gel chemistry that informs buyers when perishable food such as meat and dairy has gone bad. Inside the label or cap on food packaging and bottles respectively is the gel that reacts at the same rate a particular food spoils. The technology was developed by Solveiga Pakstaite, when she was a 21-year-old technology graduate of Brunel University back in 2015. She won the UK round of the James Dyson award at 22 on the strength of her invention and has subsequently attracted more funding to test it and combat food waste at the supermarket level.

2.
Back of store solution

Often, freshly cooked food and grocery leftovers go to waste because restaurants or households could not consume them on time. Mobile apps can help bring these leftovers to charities and families that need them. For instance, on the Food Cloud app developed by two Trinity University students, food businesses can upload details of their surplus products and the period within which the food can be picked up for redistribution. A message is sent automatically to registered charities, and whoever is the first to accept the offer can directly collect the food from the business. Other apps allow community members to connect and share their leftovers and unused groceries with each other. OLIO is one such app that connects food sharers in the same neighbourhood and helps combat food waste in the process.

3.
Reforming the future of single-use hospital plastics

Hospitals make extensive use of disposable plastic polypropylene sterilisation tray wraps and drapes, which are mostly single-use. With the help of controlled patented thermal technology, the volume of wraps and drapes used can be lowered by up to 85%. Specially designed stainless-steel machines melt the plastic sheets into a solid block of polypropylene plastic that can be reintroduced into the UK plastic supply chain to manufacture new components. SteriMelt by Thermal Compaction Group has developed sustainable machines to do the job that can process around 20 kilograms of wraps and drapes per cycle.

4.
Temperature-sensitive indicator cap or label for food freshness

Considerable food waste happens at supermarkets every year because the team discards food products that have reached the printed expiry date but may not necessarily have gone bad. Technology can help supermarkets keep track of which foods are still fresh and saleable so that this wastage can go down. One way to do this is by using temperature-sensitive indicator labels or caps that guide supermarket staff members on the correct temperature at which to store different foods. The caps also show the staff when the food has gone bad, which could be past the estimated date of expiry – this helps to keep fresh food on the shelves. Mimica Touch is one such product that has become popular with supermarkets. Founded by none other than Solveiga Pakstaite, it is a temperature-sensitive indicator label for food freshness. Mimica helps the user store food at the right temperature and combat food waste by showing them when the food actually spoils.

5.
Smart fridges

The now-defunct Waste Less, Save More project in the UK aimed to save the average household £350 a year in food expenses and reduce food wastage by 50% back in 2016. The project, which was being pioneered in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, included a set of smart fridges developed by Bosch – a technology worth knowing about. Each of the fridges featured a built-in camera accessible through a smartphone app. Users could check the contents of their fridge at any time through the app, helping them avoid over-buying groceries and even letting them zoom in to check use-by dates.
Even a small change such as adjusting the fridge temperature to its optimum level (between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius) could considerably lengthen the shelf life of refrigerated foods. Sainsbury’s, which was behind this campaign, developed these fridges along with an entire range of gadgets to combat food waste. During the 12-month trial, 1/3rd of households involved in the project reported their awareness of food waste had risen.

6.
AI-powered solutions

Artificial intelligence is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to process data and connect people. Much of food waste comes from reduced farm productivity owing to pest attacks or soil/water deficiencies. AI-based mobile apps can make use of image recognition to detect plant diseases, pests, and soil nutrient deficiencies affecting plant health. They can also connect the community of farmers, botanists and agriculturists to each other so that they can learn and develop new strategies together, and hence combat food waste. Plantix, for instance, is an AI-based app that is making significant strides in this space. Targeted at Indian farmers, the app diagnoses infected crops and offers treatment for any nutrient deficiency, pest problems or diseases.

7.
Anaerobic Digestion (AD)

AD is defined as the process by which organic matter (i.e. food waste) is broken down to produce biogas (a methane-rich gas) and digestate, which can be used as fuel (sustainable energy), and a high-quality natural fertiliser respectively. The UK government recognises AD as the most environmentally sustainable way to combat food waste.

Waste2ES, a food waste management and recycling solutions company in Hertfordshire, is slowly emerging as a pioneer in combating food waste. Their systems, iD-R-250, iD-R-500, and iD-R-5K help combat food waste across a range of business types.

Simply put, the systems apply Aerobic and Anaerobic Digestion technology to unlock, drain and remove the water held naturally in the fabric of food waste, and consolidate the calorific content in the food. The systems economically convert food waste into an odour free and valuable stored energy form.

8.
Fuel cells

A large amount of food – particularly meat products – gets spoilt while being transported and needs to be thrown away. By using more efficient storage systems, this food can be saved. For instance, American company BluWrap uses its patented fuel cells to monitor and reduce oxygen in shipping containers and can thus extend the shelf life of meat and dairy products. Its technology allows it to combat food waste by creating a controlled all-natural environment that preserves fish and meat for much longer than the printed shelf life. It enables it to be shipped to almost anywhere in the world, thus increasing the value of the food.

9.
Hermetic storage

Often, seeds and grains in storage get attacked by insects and disease and need to be thrown away. Hermetic storage is an excellent answer to this problem. For instance, the IRRI Super Bag reduces oxygen levels from 21 to 5 per cent when sealed.

It can thus significantly reduce the number of insects infesting the produce without any need for insecticides, and thus combat food waste. It also increases the germination life of stored seeds from 6 to 12 months and maintains consistent levels of grain moisture within the bag. This allows for potentially higher head rice recovery during the milling process.

Summing it up

The UN estimates the world will need to double its food production by 2050. It is challenging, so it is necessary as a society to join hands and collectively optimise our food consumption. If your business is in any way involved with food waste, please contact us to find out more about our systems. Cut costs, generate power and more importantly, do good!

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