In 2021, the Canadian government launched its Food Waste Reduction Challenge, inviting companies to submit their innovative ideas for reducing food waste for a chance to win a $1 million grand prize.
Six finalists are now perfecting their innovations for the 2024 challenge finale. Here’s what they’re working on:
- using an extract from mushroom stems to make a natural preservative
- creating an alternative to polyester, by re-engineering food waste
- turning processed vegetable and fruit waste into sustainable, compostable
menstrual pads and tampons
- converting food waste into a stable form of biocarbon that sequesters
atmospheric carbon dioxide
- transforming food waste into compostable bioplastics
- developing a solution to control mildew and micro-organism growth in fruits
and vegetables before they are harvested
What about plastics and packaging?
Single-use plastics are used across the food supply chain. But as awareness grows about their harmful environmental impacts, farmers and food producers are taking action to use less, or to use different products, and to recycle where possible. As Canada continues phasing out single use plastic, agriculture will also need to find replacements for everything from bale wrap and silage bags, to plant pots, and more. A research team at the University of Guelph, led by Dr. Erica Pensini, is working on finding those alternatives using a corn protein, a component found in tomato and grape peels and vegetable oils. An organization called Cleanfarms leads the collection and recycling of empty pesticide, fertilizer and seed containers. In 2021, the organization collected more than 6.2 million empty jugs, and approximately 473,000 kilograms of empty grain bags nationwide. Empty grain bags collected in Saskatchewan, for example, are repurposed into plastic pellets in Alberta, and then re-used to make new plastic products — another circular economy example! The Canadian Produce Marketing Association has set up a plastics packaging working group to determine how to reduce the use of plastics without compromising produce quality or safety. Examples include biodegradable food wrappings, or moulded fiber punnets and trays for cucumbers, berries, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
How you can help fight food waste
Here are some things you can do at home to reduce food waste too:
• Ask for smaller portions.
• Keep leftover food for another meal.
• Buy “ugly” fruits and vegetables—they are just as good to eat as the pretty, regularly shaped ones!
• Shop the “near expiry” racks for meat and produce to stock up on savings, as well as to reduce food waste.
Did you know...
Wrapping a greenhouse cucumber in film increases its shelf life by three days. That’s because the film limits how the vegetable breathes and keeps it hydrated, reducing food waste. An Ontario greenhouse has developed and launched the first 100 per cent home compostable cucumber wrap that fully breaks down into carbon dioxide and water in a home compost bin.