How technology can help reduce food waste | Planet Smart City | Places that matter
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29/03/2020 How technology can help reduce food waste

The agri-food sector has one of the highest social and environmental impacts and plays a key role in the sustainable development of the entire planet. Reducing food waste has become one of the most important challenges facing the world’s population today. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), every year, almost a third of all food produced for human consumption – around 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted. Meanwhile, there are over 820 million people who still live in a state of poor nutrition. 

Halving global food waste per capita at a retail and consumer level and reducing food losses during production and supply chains are goals put in place by the United Nations in order to ensure sustainable patterns of production and consumption. Objective 12 of Agenda 2030, entitled “responsible consumption and production” targets producers, distributors, public administrations and social enterprises who are responsible for rebalancing the gap between food surplus and food need.

Today, technology plays a fundamental role in providing sustainable models and useful tools that help create increasingly effective and efficient ways of operating in different industries, including food management and waste. From apps that monitor expiry dates of different products in the refrigerator, to those which allow you to share excess food with others in the vicinity. 

Mirafiori does not waste

On the southern outskirts of Turin, Italy, lies a neighbourhood called Mirafiori Sud, best known as the location of the FIAT industrial car plant. Residents of the district are already enjoying access to the community’s services via the Planet App and in December 2019 they were the first ones to experience the new “Zero Waste” feature. 

For the initiative, we designed and developed a digital tool that provides organisations with a digital marketplace to report the availability of surplus food, make reservations and coordinate and monitor donations. 16 local organisations, 22 shops, 38.000 residents and 60 volunteers now participate in the programme. As a result, people living in Mirafiori are now able to take home surplus products essential to their livelihoods, that they would not have previously had access to.

Named “Mirafiori Non Spreca” (translated as “Mirafiori does not waste”), the service was brought to the district in partnership with Miravolante Community Association, Mirafiori Foundation, the Crescere Insieme Association, AICS Torino and Planet Smart City, with the support of Compagnia di San Paolo as part of the “Done for Good” campaign. 

Fresh food recovered

In just three months of operation, the tool has made it possible to recover around 350kg of fresh food, including fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. The network of Mirafiori Sud benefits from faster services thanks to the exchange and collaboration system, better communication between parties, and a central tool where donations can be monitored easily and efficiently. As a result, food waste has been reduced and an increasing amount of aid has been offered to families.

This experience confirms how the co-design of smart solutions with representatives of communities is important in creating more effective solutions. We have received positive feedback from the work that has been done so far, including several requests for the “Zero Waste” tool in other districts of Turin. We are currently optimising the tool so that it can manage new types of goods such as medicines, children’s toys and clothing. We then aim to make the tool available not only in Brazil but in future Planet Smart City communities as well.