food / travel

Don't Throw That Out! Four Ways To End Food Waste

A farmer dumps boxes of cucumbers in a greenhouse in Algarrobo, Spain, in June 2011.
A farmer dumps boxes of cucumbers in a greenhouse in Algarrobo, Spain, in June 2011.
Caroline Brizard

PARIS — The figures are dizzying. According to the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food — one-third of the world's total food products — are thrown away or wasted each year.

Among the food we needlessly toss are yogurt pots that have passed their "best before" date and potatoes that aren't round enough. This food waste costs us 500 billion euros ($685 billion) per year. But it is possible to end the insanity.

Don't discriminate

The main causes of food waste are standards and regulations. The European Union's strict rules on fruits and vegetables have made produce that isn't uniform disappear from the market over the past 10 years.

This obliges famers to select 20% of the original products that don't meet standards and send them to soup or compote factories. Alternatively, they must compost them for fertilizer. This net waste reaches 750,000 tons per year, according to the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME).

But, as always, there are people who oppose these practices and strict regulations. Some food producers do try and persuade the distribution chain to sell "ugly" but tasty vegetables, with a label saying "It doesn't matter how I look."

An ad campaing from French supermarket chain Intermarché: "Ugly carrots make for a good soup" — Photo: Intermarché.

The expiration date myth

Anothe problem is the "best before" date. According to La Terre magazine, 600,000 tons of food that are supposedly perishable are thrown away each year. Smart website gaspiFinder does the opposite. You can scan the barcode of the product, and it tells you the number of days the product is still fine to consume, even past the expiration date.

Usually there are two dates, the "use by" date and the "best before" date. Found on dried foods, they are only there for reference. Bags of flour or packets of cookies are safe to eat past either of these dates. That said, consumers often confuse these references and leave the food that they think has expired on the shelves of supermarkets, which have no other choice but to pitch the food.

So in order to avoid confusion, the European Commission has proposed that the EU suppress these references for products such as sugar, vinegar and chocolate.

Give food to charities

Many people may not believe this, but it actually costs much less for supermarkets to donate their leftover produce to charitable organizations than to throw it away. Those who donate food to charities can benefit from tax incentives. Meanwhile, it costs 120 euros per ton to incinerate and dispose of food. "Supermarkets should make a pre-selection before getting rid of food in bulk," says a France Food Bank official.

There's so much more to do

Supermarkets aren't the only ones wasting. Mass food catering in hospitals and canteens is also to blame. There is often food left untouched on meal trays, but where does it go? The trash can.

And then there are all of us at home. The first place to spot our bad habits is in the refrigerator. We have much more milk than we need, things left half preserved, dinners we didn't finish that we promptly forget about. What do we do with yesterday's baguette? Too often, it goes rigth in the trash.

In France, on average each consumer throw away 20 kilos of food every year, which adds up to a waste of 400 euros, according to the Environment and Energy Management Agency. The International Food Bank says that 35% of food waste happens at home, especially in developed countries.

"Our meals are charming but modest, thanks to your profound art of using leftovers," French poet Paul Verlaine wrote in Odes En Son Honneur. In times of economic crisis like these, perhaps leftovers still have their best days ahead of them.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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