Upcycle Food Waste: The Solution to Minimizing Food Waste

Food Loss

Society nowadays has become much more environmentally conscious of the action we take, and more and more ways of helping the environment have arisen. One is upcycling, specifically, upcycle food waste. This new way can help resolve many of the environmental challenges we are facing right now, such as an excessive amount of food waste. So let’s take a closer look at upcycle food waste and how does upcycling food waste works.

Upcycle Food Waste

Upcycling refers to converting or transforming the wasted or discarded material into a product of higher quality. The term is often discussed in the context of minimizing plastic waste but it can also be used to address food waste. According to the Upcycled Food Association “the upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment”(About: Upcycled Food Association). The incorporation of the definition in the food industry can address the global problem of food waste which is taking a toll on the economy and environment. Food Agriculture Organization estimates, that on an average 1.3 billion tons of food goes to waste every year, accounting for economic losses of annual $1 trillion USD, coupled with contributing 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from anthropogenic activities and impacting energy, land, and water usage which never makes to the production of consumable products. Upcycle food waste not only helps us fight against environmental and food security issues, but upcycling food can also bring in more jobs and opportunities for a sustainable future.

Ways to Upcycle Food Waste

Food Waste: fruits and peels
When asked about the practical ways to minimize food waste, most of the people would respond by saying that we should only cook or buy what we can eat, or the other way could be to prepare compost. Though little is known about upcycling, still it is the most efficient way of utilizing food waste. Several companies and researchers are making efforts to turn food waste into edible products of better quality. Few such ways for upcycling food to minimize food waste are mentioned below:

Upcycled Food Waste #1: Fruits

Bananas – According to estimates, 1.4 million edible bananas are discarded daily in Britain. If you have bananas at home, and you want to prevent them from getting thrown away, peanut banana bars could be your ultimate savior. The bars are easy to make and you can freeze them for later. Similarly, the efforts are underway by Snact manufacturers, who are striving to convert bananas into edible and delicious banana bars mixed with different flavors, thus saving the bananas which could have gone to waste otherwise. Similarly, another company, named Barnana, converts bananas into dehydrated banana bites coated with different flavors, such as coconut and chocolate. These bars are readily available in the market and you can purchase them at a nominal price.

Watermelon – Instead of discarding watermelons, you can use them to extract watermelon juice, as practiced by WTRMLNWTR. The company uses techniques like cold-pressing pasteurization, to prevent microbes from producing in the water bottles and providing its customers with a healthier and tastier juice.

Upcycled Food Waste #2: Peels

Orange-peels are great upcycled food waste
Apple peels – Most of the people peel off the apples and discard them, while few use the peels to prepare compost. But, there is another productive way of utilizing apple peels. You can roast the peels to prepare healthier and crispier roasted peel chips and prevent the peels from going to your disposal can or compost bin.

Citrus peels – Using citrus peels for scrubbing or facial is common, but the peels can serve edible purpose too. Besides the fruit itself, the peels can be turned into sugar-coated sweet treats, without putting much effort. You just need a bunch of peels and sugar syrup! In addition, the RISE & WIN Brewing Co. utilize the Yuko Citrus peels in their unique blend of beer.


Vegetable Peels – Leftover scraps, skins, and peels can easily be upcycled. One way to upcycle food waste in your own kitchen. By saving the leftover peels and scraps and storing them in your freeze, once you have a good bag full of vegetable scraps, such as carrot skin, onion buds, and so on can become the perfect base for vegetable soup stock. By throwing them into a big pot and fill with water and some herbs, and slowly boil away to create the perfect vegetable soup stock.

Coffee Waste

The used coffee grounds when left to be discarded can still be used for different purposes. They are thought to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, which makes them effective cleaning agents. Hence, they can be used in the kitchen for cleaning utensils. In addition, coffee waste has been considered a promising ingredient in the cosmetics industry for a long time. The coarse grains of coffee grounds have exfoliating properties which can help in removing dead cells of the skin. When they are mixed with different oils or other natural ingredients such as honey, they can be used as scrubbers for the body and lips. UpCircle is now a leading name in skincare products’ industry, which is utilizing coffee waste for the preparation of exfoliators, thereby incorporating sustainability in the cosmetics industry.

Eggs

Eggs are often discarded for the foul smell. Similarly, there are many cases when an egg breaks and is not considered fit for consumption purposes. Instead of discarding such eggs, they can be used for hair treatment as they are rich in Vitamin-B which is vital for healthy hair. The hair mask can be prepared at home by mixing eggs and curd. In addition, you can also upcycle the eggshells, once washed and dried, grinding them into tiny pieces and use them as fertilizers for your plants.
Moreover, a US-based company, NETZRO, has partnered with food manufacturers for converting and selling upcycled egg waste. The company separates the membrane from the shells, to create two different products which include the calcium carbonate resulting from the shells, and collagen protein extracted from the shell membrane. The products are then sold out to food manufacturers, to be used as raw materials for the industry.

There are many other companies and brands out there joining the upcycle food waste industry. If the brands are joining, you should also participate in this trend of upcycling food waste.

Your Role – Less Food Waste, More Upcycled

Food waste upcycled to be a tiny egg pot
The upcycling of food would help in minimizing food waste, plus upcycling food would bring transformation in our economic systems. The way we see sustainability and the concept of the circular economy can only be driven if the waste of one industry becomes a raw material for another industry. But this would need ambitious goals and a willingness of consumers to invest in such products. The sustainability of our food and ecological systems is governed by how we, as consumers, define our behaviors, choices, and decisions. Consumer behavior is the root of sustainable living. We must understand the need to transform our lifestyles, which is the most viable solution to conserving vital natural resources. Given the fact that we are wasting such a large quantity of food every year, there are few simple steps that can pave the way to living a more sustainable life. Some of the key measures have been highlighted in the article, which is convenient and does not require much of our effort, so why wait for waste management companies to dump the waste in landfills or incinerate it when it can be used to prepare a usable product of better quality? Here is your chance to play your role in minimizing food waste. Join and advocate for the cause now, by either upcycling food waste at home or purchasing the products made out of upcycled food.

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of food waste, or understand the issue with food loss, feel free to check out our other articles.

Resources:
“About: Upcycled Food Association.” Upcycledfood. Web. 27 Oct. 2020.
“Global Food Losses and Food Waste.” Food Agriculture Organization. Food Agriculture Organization. Web. 27 Oct. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!