Upcycled Food Products Can Help Reduce Your Environmental Impact

Food Loss

Waste is a growing environmental problem we are dealing with – and unless we can collectively reduce our waste production as humanity, it will only continue to become more and more pressing. There are many movements that bring awareness and focus on reducing our waste and making a difference. Luckily, one thing that can do about our waste is creating upcycled food products. Yes, upcycle our food waste can make a huge difference for our environment. Upcycled food products are things that individuals can easily participate in and make a difference.

The Problems of Food Waste

Food waste after a meal out
Food waste in particular is a very problematic issue many people forget about since it’s commonly assumed that all food that gets thrown away will just decompose. However, this is not quite the case. Aside from the moral issues associated with food waste, as well as the waste of any resources used in the production of these foods, discarded food waste that ends up in the landfill doesn’t exactly decompose the way it would in compost.
That’s because in a landfill, waste is piled up and the food waste lacks access to oxygen, which it needs to degrade. Therefore, instead of composting, the food waste releases methane – a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent in the short term than CO2 – and sits around in a landfill for years to come (Methane: A crucial opportunity in the climate fight).
What can we do about this scary food waste issue? Aside from reducing our food waste production by only buying what we will consume, there’s another way as well – upcycled food products.

What is upcycling?

Firstly, what is upcycling? The term refers to finding a new purpose for an item or a material that would otherwise go to waste. Upcycling is all about making use of all the resources we have available to us – even those that may be seen as scraps or of lower quality.
Upcycling has recently been popularised online with the rise of the zero waste movements, but the concept itself is nothing new at all – humans have been doing this for centuries.

How can food be upcycled?

Food that has been deemed not good enough to be sold, or food scraps from your own home, can be upcycled just like any other item, but in the kitchen. Upcycled food products create more value from something that would otherwise be sent straight to landfill, which means that they are not just environmentally sustainable, but also economically. They also help farmers get value for their products which otherwise wouldn’t be sold, improving the social aspect of upcycled food products as well.
Why is this necessary? Much of the food which would get thrown away is completely fit for human consumption, it may just have the wrong size, shape, or may not survive transport across half the world if it’s cultivated in a tropical climate.
Everyone benefits from upcycled food products. The farmers get value for products that otherwise wouldn’t be sold, food businesses can make more food from products that they already purchase and build a greener image, and for consumers, it’s a simple and easy way to reduce their environmental impact. Learn more about upcycle food waste here!

Upcycled food products from around the world

More brands are getting involved and creating holistically sustainable upcycled food products. Here are some of the most popular ones you may want to try!

Upcycled Food Product: Toast Ale (UK)

Toast Ale: Upcycled food product from bread
(image sourced from Toast Ale’s Official Website)
British people eat, and also throw away a lot of toast – Toast Ale transforms bread and toast into ale! They do so by adding in the toast instead of a portion of the malted barley used in the brewing process.

Rise & Win Brewing Co. (Japan)

Rise & Win Brewing is located in Japan, and take make sure that their business model is in full circularity. This company is making the whole supply chain circular, from using citrus peels and returnable bottles, to turning spent grain from the brewing process into granola bars and sweets! They also use upcycled bottles and decorate their store with upcycled materials.

Sweet Benin’s New Beverage (West Africa)

Did you know that only 10% of the cashew apples produced in Benin where large quantities of cashews are grown are processed? The rest ends up as food waste – and that’s what Sweet Benin is looking to change with its cashew apple juice! Learn more about Sweet Benin’s Cashew Apple juice here!

Upcycled Food Product: Kromkommer from The Netherlands

Kromkommer's banner for their ugly vegetables
(Image sourced from Kromkommer’s official website)
Kromkommer is a Dutch company working to reduce the amount of wasted produce. They create nutritious Wonky Veggies Soup from imperfect veg and also sell Wonky Fruits and Veg at their dedicated store. Not only do they have upcycled food products, but they also rescue vegetables from being thrown away or ending up in landfills, which makes a huge difference.

Matriark Foods (US)

Matriark Foods collects surplus produce from US farms and turns it into soup and sauce base. By doing so, they’re helping promote a healthy lifestyle and supply a balanced diet to those in need.
these are just a few upcycled food products. Many companies around the world are evolving and making ethical choices, which is truly amazing!

Upcycled food product you can do at home!

Aside from buying upcycled food products at the store or online, there are also some ways that you can upcycle the food waste from your home, to further reduce your impact! We often throw away foods which we think have no use anymore, when they do.
For example, vegetable peels can be used to make stock to add to your cooking – just collect them in a container in the fridge and boil them at the end of the week. Brown bananas may look inedible, yet they can be used to make the most delicious banana bread. And, speaking of bananas, did you know that their peels can be used to create a vegan pulled pork alternative?
There are many ways you can create upcycled food products at home – so get experimenting! Let’s make a difference by supporting upcycled food products!
Learn more about food waste and the impact that food waste has on our environment.

Resources:
“Methane: A Crucial Opportunity in the Climate Fight.” Environmental Defense Fund. Web. 13 Apr. 2021.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!