food / travel

A Profit-Minded Quest For Reducing Food Waste

With half of the world's food tossed out, how can we be less wasteful? For starters, looking for smart new ways to earn money by decreasing waste.

Volunteers at a Danish market that seeks to eliminate food waste
Volunteers at a Danish market that seeks to eliminate food waste
Lien Hoang

HO CHI MINH CITY â€" Here's a novel idea: To improve your health and looks, use chicken. Not to eat. But to rub on your skin ... well, sort of.

A team of Malaysian researchers has been trying to find a use for chicken skin, which contains high levels of elastin â€" similar to collagen â€" and can be turned into such beauty products as anti-aging lotions and cosmetics. It can even be used to make health drinks.

Salma Mohamad Yusop is part of the team, which is receiving funding from the Malaysian government. The senior lecturer at the National University of Malaysia's School of Chemical Sciences and Food Technology offers a nice little catchphrase for her scientific experiments: "Creating wealth from waste."

Chicken is a case in point. It is one of the most popular foods in the world, and yet a lot of the bird gets tossed out before ever reaching a dinner plate. Yusop notes that as consumers are becoming more health-consciouss, they associate the poultry skin with cardiovascular disease, and thus the skin is increasingly discarded. "It's at the food service and industrial levels too," she adds. "You can see it in the marketing of skinless chicken parts."

Malaysia isn't the only country where the "wealth from waste" approach is taking root. Just this year, France became the first nation to ban supermarkets from disposing of food that hasn't gone bad yet. And in Denmark, a new store called WeFood recently started selling products past their expiration dates.

Wasted food â€" Photo: Steven De Polo

Then there's the Philippines. Leif Marvin Gonzales, a research coordinator at Capiz State University’s College of Agriculture and Fisheries, noticed that a tremendous amount of cabbage was being lost between the time a farmer harvested it and the time it was sold to Filipino shoppers. Eager to minimize the waste, he and his team tested out a number of new techniques. Their findings are promising: a 5-10% cut in losses between the farm and retail level.

Cardboard solutions

How did they do it? The researchers had four methods. First, they kept the outer leaves on the cabbage to protect it. They also transported the vegetables in plastic crates, rather than in sacks. They mixed aluminum with water and spread it on the cabbage to control bacteria. And finally, they used plastic film to reduce exposure to oxygen.

The issue of packaging also came up at the recent International Conference on Environment and Renewable Energy, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Hiroko Seki, a postdoctoral fellow at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, compared Styrofoam to cardboard as a means for transporting tuna. She found that cardboard is cheaper during the manufacturing and transit phases. Plus, it decomposes, so is better for the environment.

Researchers are currently working on a prototype of corrugated cardboard that will survive in the water, which could significantly reduce waste in seafood logistics in the future.

Gonzales, the researcher who focused on cabbage, says there are other benefits to reducing waste: self-sufficiency, food security â€" even higher earnings. "Farmers, retailers, wholesalers, as well as consumers must adapt this technology so that we're able to increase our profits," he says.

Advocates say that on the consumer level, there are everyday things people can also do to help reduce food waste: don't overspend at the grocery store; and don't obsess too much about being sure your apples or carrots look like they do in the movies.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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