ReFood, two examples to reduce Food Waste
By: Alessandra Mei 29/03/2023
From: GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade)
Two companies with the same name, ReFood, and the same mission: to drastically reduce the amount of food waste that reaches landfills. One is a volunteer network operating in Portugal while the second is a company that helps recycle food waste in the UK.
The problem of food waste and food loss
‘If the loss and waste of food were a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emission‘. (1) In Europe alone, according to Eurostat data, in 2020, almost 59 million tonnes of organic waste reached landfills with economic, environmental and social consequences. (2)
The insertion of the decrease in FLW (Food loss and Waste) among the UN goals to be achieved by 2030 – SDG n. 12,3 (3,4) – has led to the emergence of numerous initiatives on the subject. (5,6,7) Among these, two realities that share the same name, ReFood, and the same goal through two different paths.
ReFood, the reality of volunteering in Portugal
ReFood, in Portugal is a tale of community involvement through volunteer work, encompassing the entirety of the area in which it operates.It unites those who produce excess food and throw it away with those who need it. Citizens become agents of a change: they transform ‘polluters into friends of the environment, exclusion into inclusion, food insecurity into stable nutrition, beneficiaries into volunteers, strangers into friends and indifference into solidarity‘.
They have already created 60 centres that distribute 150 meals a month, diverting a thousand tons of organic waste from landfills every month. All this using already existing means and involving volunteers for only two hours a week, making this model replicable from local to global.
In addition to developing a circular economy model, saving good and safe food from landfill, ReFood has a knock-on effect on other SDGs, such as helping families out of poverty (SDG#1), improving health (SDG#3) or engaging the community in sustainable and circular development (SDG#4). The website shows the steps to open a centre in one’s own community, currently present only in Portugal but perhaps replicable in other countries. (8)
ReFood UK, from waste to resource
The name ReFood also identifies an English company born with the mission to achieve the goal of ‘zero food waste in landfills by 2020’, the year in which it was expected that all landfills would be occupied. Since the beginning of 2023, the website reads, 943.6 tonnes of food have already been sent to landfills, which becomes 7,2 million tonnes in a year for a consideration of 12 billion pounds.
ReFood offers public and private companies alternative solutions instead of sending food to landfills, reducing their carbon footprint and disposal costs. Organic waste is either recycled in their anaerobic digestion plants to create energy, or transformed into ReGrow, a nutritious biofertilizer. To find out how much energy and fertilizer can be created from our waste, there is a calculator on their site which also indicates the CO2 emitted compared to the tons of waste produced. (9)
Footnotes (1) Quote by Inger Anderson, Executive Director United Nations Environment Program at the opening of the UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021. March 2021. https://www.unep.org/resources/report/unep-food-waste-index-report-2021
(2) Dario Dongo. Upcycling, the main road to research and innovation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.1.2023.
(3) FAO. Sustainable Development Goals. Indicator 12.3.i – Global Food Loss and Waste https://www.fao.org/sustainable-development-goals/indicators/1231/en/
(4) For more information on FLW and reduction targets, see the Feed Back EU report. No time to waste. https://bit.ly/3nje5Nh
(5) Dario Dongo. Sainsbury’s, UK, ‘Taste Me, Don’t Waste Me’. £2 boxed fruit and veg. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.2.2023
(6) Dario Dongo, Giulia Pietrollini. Reducing food waste, the strategy of Coop Italia. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.2.2023.
(7) Martha Strinati. Too Good To GO, the performance of the app against food waste. 2.2.2023
(8) The steps to open a food collection and distribution center https://re-food.org/movimento/como-nasce-um-novo-nucleo/
(9) To calculate the value of our waste https://refood.co.uk/about-refood/savings-calculator/calculate/?option=option4