Converting Supermarket Waste To Animal Feed, A Sicilian Startup

On the Italian island of Sicily, young entrepreneurs have launched a project aimed at reducing waste of fresh produce by finding alternative four-legged consumers.

Going sour
Going sour

MESSINA â€" Beyond the piles of food we've bought that wind up getting wasted are the mountains of waste from those who do the selling. By some estimates, the average citizen throws away half a kilogram of purchased food, and major supermarket chains regularly toss 60 to 70 % of their fruit and vegetables and 25 to 30 % of their packaged goods, once the expiration dates have come and gone.

In the Sicilian city of Messina, Giuseppe Galatà, an animal lover and construction engineer, has built on a new way for supermarkets to reduce waste: turn past-their-prime fruits and vegetables into animal feed. La Repubblica reports on Galatà’s project, called Saved, which has landed the support of the University of Messina, and substantial funding from Italy’s Ministry of Education, Universities and Research as a Smart City project.

Instead of dumping excess fruits and vegetables, the Save project encourages supermarkets to collect them and send them off to be treated and dehydrated, following procedures established after certified tests carried out by the Sicilian university. The resulting feed is suitable both for cows that have just given birth, and their calves.

The silage technique used acidifies vegetable mass and yields a fruit and vegetable mix containing 18% protein, a much higher share than that found in traditional animal feeds and one more conducive to healthy animal growth, La Repubblica reports.

Though the start-up is based in Sicily, Galatà, a native of northern Italy, has teamed up with the University of Ferrara and the University of Parma further north for boxing and packaging solutions.

So far, all the excess food turned to feed has been collected thanks to an agreement with the Despar supermarket chain in Sicily, but Save’s supporters hope the project will expand. Galatà notes that in wasting less food, commercial vendors will save tax costs less trash to be collected, and so will pay lower taxes. Farmers, meanwhile, will be able to buy locally produced animal feed whenever they like, and communities will be able to improve their overall waste management and recycling performances.

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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