Even as our food resources grow scarce, food wastage continues to be a rising global problem. The 2011 SIK study puts the global food waste at almost 1.3 billion tonnes per year, while British IME 2013 report estimates that anywhere between 30% to 50% of the food that is produced for human consumption is wasted. It’s just staggering! This recent article in the Wall Street Journal outlines the issues with collating figures and tackling the problem.
Although significant wastage occurs during production and consumption phases, considerable quantities are also wasted at the domestic level. The food that we throw out makes its way into landfill, where it rots, decomposes and produces greenhouse gases like methane. In the UK, campaign group Love Food Hate Waste estimated that 50% of food waste comes from our homes.
We cannot afford to waste food in this manner. But, is there an alternative way of using the food that is otherwise wasted? Fortunately, the answer is “Yes”!
How To Utilise Food Waste
1. Finish Your Plate
The first and most obvious answer is to make sure more of the food produced is actually eaten. In the UK it has been calculated that 60% of wasted food could have actually been used. Check out sites like Love Food Hate Waste and Think Eat Save for more information and great food saving tips for the home. Food waste can be avoidable to a great extent, by simply limiting our buying habits to what we actually require – stop buying so much!
2. Think Out Of The Box
One sensible approach for us consumers, is to plan and maximize use of the food we purchase. If you do find you have leftovers, don’t just shove it in the bin! Why not convert food waste into animal feed, fertiliser. For more industrial uses, we can even give our waste food to anaerobic digestion plants (big food recycling units) who then use it to create alternate sources of energy – clever!
3. Make A Profit Out Of It
Ingenious food waste haters like the clever people behind The Real Junk Food Project have also come up with great business ideas to combat and utilise the waste. Adam Smith opened his restaurant in Leeds serving food that would have otherwise been thrown away by supermarkets, grocers and food banks. They also have a ‘pay as you feel’ policy. “In just 10 months he fed 10,000 people on 20 tonnes of unwanted food, raising over £30,000.” Now the idea has spread all over the world. Read this Independent article to find out a bit more!
4. Wear It
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Let me tell you a very interesting and innovative way to put food waste to good use — Fashion! Surprised? Believe it or not, there are many ethically and environmentally conscious designers who attempt to integrate food into fashion, and many have already succeeded at it. Let’s take a look at how they do this.
Food Waste Into Fashion
Many different techniques have been used to convert food waste into accessories and fibres. One of these is to produce durable produce-based leather from unattractive and overripe fruits and vegetables.
Recycled food leftovers can also be dried, cooked and blended, and the resultant product converted into accessories like buttons and buckles. The scope for recycling to minimise wastage, doesn’t end here. Food packets, bottle tops and ring pulls have also been used in fashion, in a variety of projects. Here are the details about some of these brilliant projects.
Buttons and Buckles From Food Waste
The brain child of London-based designer, Hoyan Ip, Bio-trimmings is a one-off collection of statement style buttons, buckles and accessories created from leftover food. The techniques used in production took years of research to develop, but the product does justice to this effort. Each accessory is a unique piece that is odour-free, durable and handmade. Hoyan believes that there is immense potential to create thousands of buttons, considering that every household wastes almost 20% of the food they purchase each week. This sustainable option is definitely the way to go.
Six students from Holland created prototype hide-like materials from fruit and vegetable produce. This product has a texture that lends itself well to creating bags, purses and similar accessories. Interestingly, the technique they employed included mashing, blending and drying, and is similar to what is used to create fruit leather treats.
Having created prototypes of handbags, shopping bags and lampshades from this unique fruit leather, the team is currently working with different combinations of elements to improve the strength and durability of their product.
Here’s a short video about their process. (N.b. It is in Dutch, but don’t worry if you can’t speak it, it still makes sense!)
Many plants that we commonly use in daily cooking are good sources of dyes. Popular examples include red cabbage, onion skins, sunflowers and hollyhocks. These sustainable and environmentally friendly dyes can be used to colour fabrics. Permacouture is an organisation that educates people on maximising such connections between local textiles and food. Their aim is to encourage communities to creatively combine food produce and fashion to produce incredible, ethical fashion pieces.
I hope you’re now convinced that domestic and industrial food waste finds good use when converted into innovative, attractive fashion pieces. These designers prove yet again that the sky is the limit for sustainable fashion, as they painstakingly harmonise two very distinct disciplines: Fashion and Food!