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Social Innovation

Millennials are wasting away

Waste not, want not – discover how tech is helping us to waste less food.

In a surprising turnaround for our so-called Green Generation, it was recently estimated that Millennials waste almost 50% more food than people aged over 65!

Although Millennials seem to be the worst, our busy modern lifestyles are leading all of us to be less frugal.

However, new smart tech is starting to help every generation to be more sustainable when buying and storing food.

Changing our food storage and buying habits is a key part of the tech war against food waste. We’re all guilty of overbuying food if we fear we’ve not got enough in the fridge or, worse, impulse buying when our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. So, in terms of storage, smart fridges are the latest gadgets on the market which aim to let consumers know the current state of their food. By monitoring the contents of our fridge and by sending photos (“shelfies”) to our phone, smart fridges can tell us what food we have, its expiry date and they can even update our online shopping order. It is hoped that people will be able to reduce their food waste by knowing how much food they have and how long they have left to consume it.

Cutting food waste isn’t just down to consumers, it’s also the responsibility of the superstores too. They throw away thousands of pounds worth of food from unsold products which have passed their sell-by-date. Not only is this wasteful, but it is also so costly that supermarkets have resorted to technology from the Hadron Collider to predict how much of every item shoppers will buy every day in their stores. By applying the Neurobaynes algorithm developed for use in particle physics, superstores such as Morrisons have been able to predict stock needs more accurately and thus reduce produce which gets thrown away at the end of each day.  

But it’s not only the food we buy and store that adds up to the high levels of waste – knowing how to best reuse and recycle materials is also a key part of the sustainable food cycle. By making recycling easier and less time-consuming, this cuts back on the amount of reusable packaging which gets chucked away. Smart bins by start-up company Bin.E are being trialled in Poland. They are able to recognise different types of waste material through a system of sensors, image recognition and AI. The camera and sensors then identify the material and the item is compressed into one of the smaller bins inside the vestibule, ready for collection.

But, is there a way that we can avoid wasteful packaging altogether, whilst still displaying the useful information that food labels provide? Hitachi has developed CO2 laser marking which can directly print onto food, which results in more sustainability and traceability. If technology such as this becomes more widespread, it should help to considerably reduce the need for food packaging.

So, teamed with changing our shopping habits and the way we store our food, smart tech is leading the way to a more sustainable and less wasteful future.