Down to Earth

Food waste: Scraps for good


If food wastage was a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, trailing only behind China and the United States. It's time to rewind and rethink the way we treat our food waste. We take a closer look at two initiatives.


Faced with the absurd quantity of food waste – one third of the food produced in the world is thrown away – the creators of the application Too Good To Go decided to use technology to offer a solution. 

By connecting shopkeepers who have unsold items to throw away with customers looking for a bargain deal, the application has managed to avoid enormous quantities of food waste.

Too Good To Go's concept is a magic box which means the customer doesn't know exactly what's inside. A typical box contains produce worth €12 and the user pays €3.99. In most cases the company takes a €1 commission.

Managing director Sarah Chouraqui believes the problem is not convincing people that food waste is a problem. ''We really believe people want to do something but sometimes they feel powerless, they don't know exactly what to do, so we really want to help them act,'' she explains.

Turning fish skin into leather

In France, an estimated 50,000 tonnes of fish skins are thrown away each year. Across Europe the number is as high as 500,000 tonnes. As the skins degrade they release C02 into the atmosphere.

Founded by three engineering graduates in 2016, the team at Ictyos collect fish skins destined for the bin from dozens of restaurants, many of them Japanese, across the French city of Lyon. In their local tannery, they transform the skins into a luxury leather to be used for clothes, shoes, watch straps, as well as in cars and yachts.

It's a complex process that involves first storing the skins in freezers before sending them to a drum which cleans the skin to remove the fat and scales. Tannins are then added to turn the skin into leather, before the tinting process begins.

And does the leather smell like fish?  

''Everybody wonders if the leather smells like the skin but it doesn't. That’s where our work comes in. We’ve processed he skin so it has its own smell but not a fishy one,'' says co-founder Benjamin Malatrait reassuringly.

The start-up has already formed a partnership with the Michelin-starred restaurant Tetedoie. Headed by chef Christian Tetedoie, the establishment has committed to reducing its food waste by optimising all of its food, including the scraps.

''We've learnt from the past,'' explains Tetedoie. ''Before we tended to create waste because we used to cut up very beautiful pieces of meat and hardly use the rest.''

In the case of chicken, for example, Tetedoie chooses the best piece, the thighs, for his gastronomic restaurant. The drumsticks and breast are used in his brasserie and rooftop locations. The bones are used for sauce and stock.

Until recently, Tetedoie's fish skins had ended up in the trash but the project with Ictyos is now giving them a second life.

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