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Geopolitics

What A Waste: Uneaten Food A Global (And French Gourmand) Problem

Masters at preparing food, the French are also pretty good at tossing it away -- to the tune of 44 pounds per person annually. They are not alone. According to an FAO study, only half of the world's food actually makes it in to people's

What A Waste: Uneaten Food A Global (And French Gourmand) Problem
Julien Dupont

At this point it takes more than a million gallons of free milk, or the fact that he has just filled an entire trailer with soon-to-be expired yogurt, to surprise Maurice Lony. As president of the French Federation of Food Banks, Lony says he is "so used to food waste." Last year his organization collected a whopping 103,244 tons of food, a veritable mountain of groceries that would have otherwise been discarded.

Half of that food came from the French state, from an annual collection provided by individuals and European agricultural stocks; the other half came from the food industry and supermarkets. Everything goes to the kitchens of people in need, distributed through partner charities. "We retrieve products that cannot be sold but that are perfectly edible, like products that are not correctly labeled or are close to their sell-by date," says Lony.

Just about everyone does their share of wasting: farmers who calibrate their fruit and vegetables, transporters who damage their fruit, producers who aim for perfectly unblemished produce, retailers who pack their shelves to the brim, restaurants that serve over-generous plates, and individuals who do not pay enough attention to sell-by dates.

"In the cities where big events are regularly organized, up to a third of the meals served end up in the garbage," says Benoît Hartmann, spokesman for an organization called France Nature Environnement. "It's an indecent and irresponsible practice. We must not forget the environmental consequences, all the pesticides, the land and the water and the means of transport, all used for no reason at all!"

According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) -- the only institution providing figures on the subject -- French retailers remove from their shelves 1.3 million tons of organic waste each year. French citizens are not any better: they throw away an average of 44 pounds of food each year, or little more than 15 pounds of food past their sell-by date and 28 pounds of food scraps and leftovers.

"The subject is still a delicate one. When asked the question, nine out of every 10 French people say they do not throw away any food. It is as if they simply refuse to admit the reality that our society is wasting food," says Lydia Ougier of ADEME's prevention and waste management department.

"Today, our economy processes more raw products than ever before, transporting them over long distances and using state-of-the-art time management planning," explains agronomist Michael Griffin, vice-president of the French National Research Agency. "The obvious result is that the coefficient of food that is not consumed is very high. The world did not have this problem before the 1960s, when the food circuit was much shorter."

A global study conducted in 2008 by the International Water Institute in Stockholm on behalf of FAO confirms the scale of the problem. The study states that about half of all food produced in the world will never actually make it into anyone's mouth! "In developing countries crops are often destroyed by disease and losses are quite significant," says Griffon. "In developed countries, it is the practices of companies and individuals that end up causing such an impressive amount of waste."

In the United States, 40% of the raw food produced ends up in the trash, according to a study published in November 2010 in the PLOS One journal. In Britain, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates the cost of British food waste at approximately $18 billion per year.

It is clear, then, that the war against food waste has yet to really begin. The only cause for hope right now is the wallet. Since the economic crisis started in 2008, food rescue charities and food banks are finding that the amount of food they collect is stagnating. Some of the "blame" goes to supermarkets, which – in an effort to reduce costs – have significantly improved inventory management.

Read the original article in French.

Photo - Sporkist

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Future

Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGO — TikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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