Scandinavians tackle food waste

An environmentally-conscious app aims to save food

Photo: jbloom / Flickr Food waste is a problem in most developed nations.

Photo: jbloom / Flickr
Food waste is a problem in most developed nations.

Michael Sandelson & Sarah Bostock
The Foreigner

“Too Good To Go” was conceived by two Danes and a Norwegian. The company has signed up hundreds of restaurants in Denmark, where the idea has been in operation since October 2015, as well as in Germany and France. Four Norwegian establishments have recently joined the scheme: Akropolis in Stavanger, as well as Café Påfyll, Greasy Luncheon, and BA53 in Oslo.

Norwegians are positive to the idea, according to entrepreneur and company rep Stian Hånes, who was born in Bergen, Norway. The Scandinavian trio is also considering expanding to the UK, Spain, Australia, and China.

“Moreover, Norwegians deserve to be first movers on some things for once, instead of what normally happens in the case of London, for example,” Hånes tells The Foreigner. “They have a chance to show that they can do something environmentally-friendly.”

The app is designed to allow people to buy cheaper food at restaurants. The food that is either not sold before the establishments close, or cannot be saved until the next day, would normally be jettisoned. 700,000 tons of food is thrown out in Denmark each year, with 30,000 tons of that waste from restaurants, according to the Too Good To Go Company.

App users can choose a restaurant or allow the app’s GPS software to find the nearest place. It also provides a charitable option, which lets users pay for food that is then given to the homeless by volunteers.

Those who have ordered food are given a 100% biodegradable takeaway box made of sugarcane. This box, which must be picked up as close to the restaurant’s actual closing time as possible, can contain up to one kilogram of food—which corresponds to two kg of CO2 equivalents.

The average cost of a box full of food ordered is between DKK 20 and 40 when ordered and paid for via the app, or “from NOK 15 to 50” in Norway.

Norwegians waste 255,000 tons of edible food annually, it has been shown. This is equal to 250 million bananas and cucumbers.

The Foreigner talked with Arild Herm­stad, head of Norwegian environmental organization Framtiden i våre hender (the Future in Our Hands) about the issue.

“We know that a lot of food is thrown away in Norway and that the amount of wastage is not very well-documented. We’re compiling figures as to how the level compares with other countries’, but we buy too much food in our part of the world,” he says.

And while people who live in rich countries typically can afford to purchase more food than they require, the problem in poor countries is adequate food distribution.

“I also think that consumers are victims of a huge food marketing campaign, and that food shops’ intelligent layout systems are designed for shoppers to grab more food than they need. It is estimated that every fifth carrier bag of food bought is wasted,” says Hermstad.

The Future in Our Hands would like to do something about the issue: “We think that authorities must aim towards halving the amount of food that is thrown away within a period of ten years. They must also obligate food shops to reduce their own wastage, and introduce more stringent demands and fines to achieve this,” Hermstad remarks.

However, getting consumers to buy less is more of a challenge. “While clearance prices on foods should be better-regulated, we think that reflecting the environmental cost of food by higher pricing is a good idea,” proposes Hermstad.

People spend an average of 10 percent of their wages on food in Norway. Other solutions than increased prices might work better, he thinks: “It’s really about improved use by and best before labeling, as well as food shops selling smaller portions.”

Of the app initiative, he says, “it’s a marvelous move. It will also be exciting to see future developments regarding apps. Think, for example, if you’ve got excess, unopened food that you’d like to share with others in your neighborhood instead of throwing it away.”

The “Too Good To Go” app is currently funded mainly through sponsors and other financial firms. The company itself receives 10 kroner for each portion of fare sold.

Other current food redistribution methods in Norway include Matsentralen in Oslo, owned by five organizations: the Salvation Army (Frelsesarmeen), Norway’s Church City Mission (Kirkens bymisjon), diaconal and inter-denominational organization Blue Cross Norway (Blå Kors), a Pentecostal organization center called Pinsevennenes Evangeliesenter, and the International Organization of Good Templars’ Norway branch (IOGT Norge). The Salvation Army also conducts smaller initiatives in local communities.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Feb. 12, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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