Over the last few years there has been a worldwide increase in innovative projects, such as the SAVE FOOD initiative, which aim to reduce food waste. As well as promoting “smart” and “active” packaging to increase the shelf life of the product, many initiatives have started to focus on “doggy bags”. Europe is now wanting to catch up with countries like the United States and South Africa, where “doggy bags” are perfectly acceptable throughout society. They are seen as a good way to achieve a clear reduction in food waste, caused by guests who can’t finish their meals at restaurants.
The EU project REFRESH
The four-year EU project REFRESH has now been running since July 2015. 26 partners from 12 European countries as well as China are working towards innovative solutions to combat food waste at the retail and consumer levels.
The aim is to clearly show the general factors that can cause food waste. At the same time, project members are cooperating with end users and partners on solutions which can be presented to governments.
The European project REFRESH in Germany, Spain, Hungary and the Netherlands aims to promote anti-food-waste initiatives through alliances between governments, businesses and local interest groups. Photo: REFRESH & Ecological Institute
Running under a similar name, Too Good to Go has a somewhat different approach. The Danish start-up company uses a smartphone app called Too Good to Go, which works like this:
The free app links up restaurants with potential customers.
Surplus food is offered through the app at reduced prices.
Restaurants earn money with food that is otherwise thrown away, and customers can eat and drink at lower prices than usual.
The takeaway box by the German design student Anne Poggenpohl is simple and intuitive to use: Open the package, put in the leftovers, close it and add a label with room for personal notes and cooking instructions. All with one hand! Photo: Veronique Huyghe, Anne Poggenpohl
2.6 million meals saved
None of this requires much effort. Using the app, a restaurant uploads details of its surplus food at the end of the day, and consumers can choose the items they want, reserve them, pay online and then go and pick up the food at the relevant restaurant.
However, as portion sizes are fixed, it is not possible for customers to take along their own boxes. Special take-away boxes and paper bags have been developed for this purpose, made from 100% recyclable biodegradable materials.
Leftovers can be ordered from as little as one euro, and the app is free. Offers can be filtered by location, price and pick-up time. In Germany the app has been around since 2015, and over 1,800 restaurants have joined so far. The initiative itself says it has so far “rescued” around 2.6 million meals and saved 6,000 tonnes of CO2 in Europe.
Doggy bags around the world
Many people are convinced that doggy bags are a good way to save food. But not all nations share this conviction:
France: 50% less waste by 2025
The home of cuisine française has been the first country in the world to pass a law against food waste, with the aim of halving the problem by 2025 and of getting people to rethink. Their example is being followed by several other countries, such as Italy, Peru and Finland.
According to the French Ministry of Food and Agriculture, food waste has been reduced considerably since the introduction of this law in 2016. In particular, this has been to the benefit of charities. The law specifies that supermarkets of more than 400 square metres must donate their unsold food to a charity.
One aim of the Zero Waste Scotland campaign is to encourage the use of reusable bags. Photo: Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group
Reservations about “gourmet bags”
In France, guests at restaurants are still rather reluctant to ask for doggy bags – or “gourmet bags”, as they are called in French. This is although, according to estimates, the French waste five times as much food at restaurants compared with meals at home. The amount of food that remains uneaten at restaurant in France therefore amounts to over 20 kg per person per year.
Italy: investing around one million euros
Italy is another country with an exquisite cuisine that has recently passed a new law. Food can now also be donated if it has been incorrectly labelled or if it has passed its sell-by date. The only condition is that it must not pose a health hazard. Italy has made around one million euros available for the Anti-Food-Waste Act, covering, among other things, a new labelling system and a campaign to de-stigmatise doggy bags.
Zero Waste Scotland
A pilot project in Scotland has reduced food waste in the restaurant trade by over 40 per cent – thanks to staff training, promotional materials and the use of doggy bags. Run by the Scottish government, the Zero Waste Scotland campaign provides free doggy bags to hundreds of restaurants. Since the beginning of the project, 90 per cent of all restaurants surveyed reported a reduction in food waste of around 40 per cent.
Yes, the German version of a doggy bag – a Beste-Reste doggy box. Photo: German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV)
Beste-Reste doggy boxes in Germany
The boxes are completely biodegradable and manufactured in an eco-friendly way. They are also suitable for microwaves and freezers. Around 200 German restaurants are currently taking part in a campaign launched by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture, recommending their Beste-Reste doggy boxes to customers. Each restaurant buys these doggy boxes at their own expense, but the purchase entitles them to free registration and advertising space on the relevant website.
And here’s some more news from France: While studying in Paris for a semester, the German design student Anne Poggenpohl received an award from the National Council for Packaging for her design of a sustainable take-away box. The box can be unfolded, filled and re-folded with a single hand movement. A label can be attached, adding personal tips, for instance cooking advice, and leftover gravy can be carried in the box without dripping. When folded, the coated box is one millimetre thick and no bigger than an A4 sheet, so it can be stored cheaply. Moreover, the plastic is fully recyclable. And when the boxes are made, the cutting takes place at the same time as the embossing of the pattern, saving more than ten per cent in energy.