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Key Takeaways from the NYC Food Waste Fair

Article-Key Takeaways from the NYC Food Waste Fair

More than 1,200 attendees and nearly 80 exhibitors gathered together at the NYC Food Waste Fair yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., to discuss the issue of food waste.

More than 1,200 attendees and nearly 80 exhibitors gathered together at the NYC Food Waste Fair yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., to discuss the issue of food waste and share innovative and effective food waste reduction solutions.

At the event, attendees were able to participate in a number of workshops offered in three tracks: prevention, recovery and recycling. The prevention track workshops focused on managing food as you are using it so you can prevent waste from occurring, the recovery track workshops explained how you can save your unwanted food scraps to be sent to others in need and the recycling track workshops offered information about turning your food energy into healthy soil or energy.

In addition to the wide variety of workshops offered, the fair included four panel discussions and a sustainable cooking demonstration and discussion with well-known chefs.

Here are some key takeaways from the NYC Food Waste Fair:

  • Adam Kaye of Blue Hill, Ron Gonen of Closed Loop Fund and Eva Goulbourne of ReFED kicked off the panel discussions by talking about the role innovation plays in designing waste out of the food system in their panel “Waste is a Design Flaw: Innovation as a Tool for Addressing Food Waste.”
  • Goulbourne stressed that when we think about food waste, we also need to think about the cost wasted.
  • Gonen shared the fact that New York City spends $180 million annually to send food waste to landfill, and New York City residents spend $2 million annually to send food waste to landfill. He also said that one of the biggest challenges of food waste reduction is understanding where the cost obstacles are in system.
  • Gonen believes that in order to overcome space limitations, you need to break the sorting process up into a wet stream and a dry stream.
  • Kaye stated that zero waste is a lofty goal, but it’s a goal that we should all be working toward.
  • Kaye also shared that chefs and consumers need to work in concert to rethink the architecture of the plate.
  • During the “Using Policy to Reduce Food Waste” panel discussion, Bridget Anderson of the New York City Department of Sanitation, Mark Chambers of the New York City Mayor’s Office and Mark Izeman of the Natural Resources Defense Council spoke about how local, state and national government can best address food waste through policies and what tools and opportunities for public-private partnerships can best assist policymakers in pursuing cross-sector collaboration.
  • Anderson shared that food waste makes up about 20 percent of New York City’s residential waste stream and that the city is trying to figure out when to make food waste collection mandatory.
  • Anderson also stressed that food waste reduction is not the job of one economic sector.
  • Izeman said that when you look at food waste reduction solutions around the globe, you will notice that we have recovery, composting and reduction options available, which is a step in the right direction.
  • Grace claimed that waste is the last thing that people think about when growing a business and that there isn’t much transparency about how much food waste is actually generated in businesses. She said that we need to get businesses to think about smart and effective food waste solutions if we want to actually start seeing a difference in food waste reduction.
  • Chambers noted that it’s 2017 and we now have the ability to move toward a more aggressive approach of food waste diversion. He also shared that we need to do a better job of collecting and sorting food waste on a global scale.
  • At the “Unlocking Opportunities and Transforming the Marketplace: A Discussion with Key Leaders” plenary session, Chris Cochran of ReFED, Kathryn Garcia of the New York City Department of Sanitation, Peter Madonia of The Rockefeller Foundation and Jen McLean of City Harvest discussed their strategies for addressing food waste and the opportunities available for government, industry and nonprofit organizations.
  • Cochran relayed the fact that 40 percent of edible food is wasted. He also said that humans want to be engaged with sustainable solutions in both their head and their heart.
  • McLean gave helpful advice to businesses, stating “in order to reduce food waste, you need to take care of over production.”
  • Garcia also gave advice to businesses, saying that "measuring your food waste will help you figure out exactly how much food you’re letting go to waste."
  • Madonia ended the panel discussion by saying that it’s an art to know how much food you really need in your store or restaurant, and that it’s not simple to order the exact amount of ingredients and cook the exact amount of meals that you’ll need on a daily basis.
  • During the “Leadership and Changing Cultural Perspectives” panel discussion, Mitchell Davis of the James Beard Foundation, Tom McQuillan of Baldor and Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank explored how different sectors, advocates and cultural influencers are stepping up to drive change to reduce waste and encouraging people to rethink their relationship with food.
  • Davis explained that the great cuisines of the world were built to minimize waste.
  • Davis also shared that food waste is currently viewed as a trend, and chefs can use their platform to make food waste “cool.”
  • McQuillan spoke about SparCs (scraps spelled backwards), Baldor’s new initiative to combat food waste in America. SparCs uses a three-tiered approach to reduce waste: animal consumption, human consumption and renewable energy.
  • McQuillan also said that one of the things that we need to educate ourselves about is portion. If you buy too much, don’t throw it out! Cook the food you buy and deliver a cooked meal to a neighbor if you find that you have extra food that may go to waste if it’s not eaten in a certain timeframe.
  • Nierenberg explained that we can be instrumental in food waste reduction by highlighting initiatives that work. She also said that students and young people are on the forefront of the food waste movement.
  • “We’re changing hearts and minds one sour milk coffee at a time,” stated Monica Munn of The Rockefeller Foundation in response to Davis’ story about how his husband poured slightly sour milk into his coffee to avoid letting the milk go to waste.
  • In the last panel discussion, “Establishing a Zero Waste Program: Setting Goals and Metrics,” Dr. Nadereh Afsharmanesh of Earth Friendly Products, Hilary Young of Etsy and Nell Fry of Sodexo North America teamed up to talk about how their companies are working toward zero waste.
  • Young shared that Etsy is one of the major hubs for upcycled products and that Etsy recently committed to achieving zero waste by 2020. Etsy is so committed to reaching zero waste that it has landfill-free days at the office! Those who bring in landfill waste on those days are asked to bring the waste back home with them for disposal.
  • Young also said that Etsy does waste audits on a daily basis via an app that allows the company to track materials in real time and that its New York office has one primary waste station instead of waste baskets under desks so that employees have access to the company’s five waste streams opposed to one trash or recycling bin.
  • Afsharmanesh said that in order to figure out how much of Earth Friendly Products’ waste was actually recyclable, she dove into dumpsters. And by doing that, she discovered that 60 percent of the company’s waste was recyclable.
  • Afsharmanesh noted that she goes through the company’s trash bins on a weekly basis to make sure that waste is actually being reduced.
  • Fry announced that Sodexo is working with LeathPath to roll out its technology in all of its sites. She also said that the company conducts waste trainings so that it can teach its operators how to do waste audits.
  • Sodexo has a wide range of customers, and because of that, Fry explained that the right solution for site may not be the right solution for another site.
  • Stephanie Barger of the U.S. Green Business Council, the panel discussion’s moderator, closed out the panel by stating that “every time you throw away recyclables, you throw away jobs and resources.”
  • Recycle Track Systems showcased its on-demand app, which provides real-time accountability and transparency for daily trash removal.
  • "The NYC Food Waste Fair was a terrific event, and I'm thrilled SWANA participated,” says David Biderman, CEO and executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). “There was a tremendous amount of networking and learning taking place, and I expect similar additional events will be held in the future."
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