Founder of the “Stop Food Waste” Initiative (Stop Spild Af Mad), Denmark Selina Juul grew up in Russia before moving to Denmark at the age of 13. She works as a speaker and graphic to. In 2008, she founded “Stop Food Waste”, a non-profit organisation. It has since developed into the biggest consumer movement against food waste in Denmark and has achieved enormous media impact and impressive results.
The initiative cooperates with EU and UN initiatives, and Selina Juul has been awarded many prizes for her untiring work against food waste. They include the Nature and Environment Award of the Nordic Council in 2013 and the Svend Auken prize in 2013, which was awarded to her by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt herself.
1. Which aspect of the food waste problem is the most relevant for you?
The focus topic of food waste has recently reached Time Magazine. The fight against food waste has really hit the mainstream media. And it’s about time, because minimizing food losses and waste will soon become one of the crucial aspects of ensuring the future survival of human species. Today, not only the food waste, but the fight against food waste itself is becoming an industry. A lot of good action and initiatives against food waste are taking place in EU and all around the world. And yet. There are also a lot of initiatives, which don’t contribute to the prevention itself, but only to symptom treatment, leaving out the essence of the very fight against food waste out of equation. There is a lot of symbolic action and greenwashing going on as well. Top retail trendsetters of the world place the fight against food waste among the top five CSR priorities for every company having a CSR policy. Sincere actions are being made, and yet the symbolic actions too: a food company publishing a colorful brochure with consumer tips to reduce food waste without actually reducing their own food waste in the company.
The food waste symptom treatment filling the newspaper headlines more than the actual prevention: stories of tons of good surplus food recovered and redistributed to the homeless people weigh much more than stories about the food waste prevention initiatives. That being said, it’s important to help the homeless and socially disadvantaged people with good surplus food – but it’s also as important to look at the root of the problem of food waste.
There is no need for a Food Waste Police – but there is a need for lasting action and impact, which would drastically reduce the amount of food losses and waste around the world. A need to address the problem at its root.
Imagine if businesses would not only reduce their food losses and waste, but also get new income possibilities. Image if the fight against food losses and waste would create more jobs – and more education opportunities. Image if the fight against food losses and waste would open up new possibilities for new green growth and new social innovations.
The prevention of food losses and waste is the key to improving our civilization’s future food supply.
2. What do you think is the best way to make improvements in this area?
Food products made from surplus produce. Mobile apps which help you buy cheap surplus food from restaurant’s buffets. More and more supermarket offers on cheap food nearing its expiry date. And heavy marketing campaigns within the retailers and the industry to show off their work on stop wasting food. The fight against food waste is not only reserved for the hippie activists - the fight against food waste is becoming big business. And this is only the beginning.
Image, if we can save the world by saving out time and saving money. While saving the carbon footprint while helping the food value chain to optimize itself. Too good to be true? Well, the fight against food waste nails it.
In many media, Denmark's has been crowned at the European leading country to reduce food waste. Within 5 years, Denmark's national food waste has been reduced by 25%. That's quite something. Many Danish supermarkets are started to sell good food, which is close to its expiry date, at reduced prices. That means that supermarkets waste less food, earn money on the food, which otherwise could have been wasted and customers can buy food at reduced price and avoid food waste. Many Danish supermarkets brand themselves on these initiatives, labeling them the "Save Food" of the "Stop Food Waste" bargains. This trend has become quite popular, and perhaps the international supermarkets should take a closer look at the Danish retail industry.
We are in a hurry. In just 13 years, the human population's global food losses and food waste must be reduced by 50%. This deadline is made by the new UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. Recently, I was invited to participate in the new EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, a 4 year long project which will focus on helping to deliver that goal. On the Platform's first meeting in Brussels, I addressed that it's important to take a look at the entire value chain - and focus on the prevention. It's good and important to donate surplus food to the charities, but it will never address the root cause. We need to take a look at the overproduction of food.
According to the UN FAO, one third of the world's produced food is either lost or wasted. Imagine, theoretically, a kind of new green growth, if we put that food into business. Today, a lot of produce never leaves the farms, because the customers have no interest in buying an ugly tomato or an odd looking cauliflower in the supermarket.
But if the farmer would have a chance to sell this produce to a food company, which produces "rescued vegetable soups" and dosen't really care about the aesthetics of vegetables, it will not only prevent the loss of food, but also give the farmer a new source of income.
The "rescued food" companies are starting to populate the market. Although it's not mainstream yet, companies and startups like Snact, Misfit Juice, FoPo Food Powder, Rubies in the Rubble, Wonky, Kromkommer, Barstensvol, OverLekker and Spare Fruit are gaining popularity.
The "rescued food" products will also make it easy for the consumer to help stopping the food losses and waste. The only thing the consumer should do is to buy the product and eat it, every bit. And with the raising awareness on food waste, many food companies can even create a new branding out of it.
The stop wasting food trend is growing all over the world, lately with food waste supermarkets and food waste restaurants. The consumers are soon made ready to buy the "rescued food" products – and it will create a new growing mainstream market.
If we take a look at the foodservice and catering industry, a lot of "wonky" produce can be put into good use. When you eat your salad, it dosen't really matter if the vegetables were perfect or odd looking – it's all chopped in a salad bowl. A local hospital can make a deal with a local farmer to buy the farmer's "wonky" produce, probably at the reduced price. The farmer can earn money on the produce, he previously tossed away, the hospital can make delicious meals to its patients and can brand itself by being a green hospital, which supports stop wasting food.
3. Can you already discover a positive development in this area?
At the moment, the global number of food waste reduction champions and initiatives is growing, sparkled by the SAVE FOOD initiative back in 2011: USA has world’s no. 1 food waste expert, the author and campaigner Jonathan Bloom. As well as NRDC’s Dana Gunders and Food Tank’s co-founder Danielle Nierenberg. World Resources Institute USA is now developing the Food Loss & Waste Protocol — and the Canadian movie makers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer recently made an award-winning Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story movie.
In Australia, the OzHarvest is feeding thousands with surplus food, in Europe, the UN FAO launched the SAVE FOOD initiative and a FAO/UNEP campaign, Think.Eat.Save. EU projects like FUSIONS and REFRESH take a scientific approach on food waste, while UK’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign by WRAP targets the households. In Italy, Barilla CFN is developing the Milan Protocol, while all over the world new start-ups and events against food waste are gaining speed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our NGO is involved in many of the above-mentioned initiatives.
If Carlsberg is known as probably the best beer in the world, then Denmark can soon be known as probably the world leading country in the fight against food waste. With national reduction in food waste by 25% within five years (2010-2015), a national movement against food waste, a food waste restaurant, the government’s Partnership against Food Waste, giant focus on food waste in the media and new food waste reduction initiatives and startups popping up almost every month, Denmark can be proud of its great achievements in the fight against food waste.
Let’s make a united stand against food waste — starting today.
4. What institutional measures would you like to see in the future?
In November 2016, a new subsidies scheme, launched by Danish Minister for Environment and Food, Esben Lunde Larsen, which will support projects aiming at making a difference in combatting food waste throughout the chain from food production to consumers’ homes. The average Dane wastes more than a kilogram of food every week, and an average household throws away food worth DKK 7,200 (968,45 EUR) every year. This impacts both the environment and the economy. Therefore the Minister has opened a new subsidies pool that will distribute more than DKK 5,000,000 (672.532,62 EUR) to projects that can drastically cut food waste in Denmark. The Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad) and partners also received money from the scheme for several national projects to combat food losses and waste.
I'd like to see a subsidies scheme like that being launched all across the EU, perhaps in collaboration with UN FAO and the SAVE FOOD initiative. There are a lot of great European and international projects to combat food losses and waste out there, which can scale up and make a large impact, if they receive a substantial funding. I suggest opening a National European Fund for Food Loss and Waste Reduction.
5. Which role does the Initiative SAVE FOOD play in fighting food losses and food waste in your opinion?
SAVE FOOD initiative maps all the good food waste/food loss reduction initiatives though out the world and creates a great action platform of best practice.