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Waste reduction challenge launched

Every year, two billion tonnes of food are wasted globally, almost half of all that is produced, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. We need to give some serious thought to food. We cannot go on consuming, producing and wasting. And it does not stop at food - packaging, energy and over-consumption of every-day basics all add up.

Despite these massive issues, there are people and organisations trying to overcome such wasteful behaviour. Nesta’s intention is to support innovations that can achieve real impact in reducing waste, and that can do so sustainably and either grow to achieve scale or demonstrate to others how it can be done.

This is why the Centre for Challenge Prizes, in partnership with the Cabinet Office, launched the Waste Reduction Challenge Prize, which is intended to find ways to galvanise people and communities into reducing waste.  

Nesta has just announced the six finalists, detailed here, whittled down from 25 semi-finalists. During the next six months, the finalists will receive support and funding to develop their ideas further. In November, the winning idea will be the one that best reduces, reuses or recycles the greatest level of waste, and the prize will be £50,000.

Each finalist will receive up to £10,000 and help to set up and test their innovations. This might include, for example, prototype development and support to take existing ideas to a bigger scale.

Brixton People’s Kitchen: Mobile Kitchen

Brixton People’s Kitchen has been turning food surplus from local businesses into free meals for local people. They are now inviting people to design and build a Mobile Kitchen that will travel around the diverse communities in Brixton and beyond.

Not only will this make food collection more efficient, but it can also be used as a shared kitchen. Their aim is to inspire positive action against food waste by acting as a convivial platform for food education and skills-sharing.

Zero Waste Alliance UK: The Rubbish Diet

Billed as ‘WeightWatchers for your bin’, dieters weigh their fortnightly waste collection and aim to lose weight from it each fortnight by cutting the amount they throw away through recycling, composting and reuse.

Dieters join a ‘support group’ similar to a slimming club, where they can identify targets and share ideas. ‘Dieting’ as a group motivates people to keep their waste loss on track.

Zero Waste Alliance hopes to branch out across the nation by using transition groups and motivated individuals to reach out to communities, with new resources and campaigns being shared through its website.

Zero Waste Alliance will be asking councils to invest in a waste awareness budget to run the Rubbish Diet in their areas, so gaining permanent savings as people swap their 240-litre wheelie bins for 120-litre bins.

FareShare and FoodCycle: Just-in-Time Food Network

Through its Just-in Time Food Network, FareShare and FoodCycle are working with big suppliers and supermarkets to redirect leftover stock to more than 700 diverse charities. Together they have created a framework to empower communities to collect surplus food in a safe and efficient way that can be replicated.

A pilot has been started in the Bristol area, where there is a strong FareShare and FoodCycle presence as well as a high demand for surplus food by those at risk of food poverty. The results of this pilot will then be used as a foundation to expand the network across the country.

The intention is to roll this out across the UK to areas where there is no FareShare depot, linking in with stores everywhere to ensure that community and voluntary groups in more rural settings can benefit from using surplus food.

Museum of Bad Design

The Museum of Bad Design aims to create a collaborative design team to tackle the issue of bad design and production of waste. Currently running a pilot in Presteigne, Wales, it is soon moving to Coventry.

The museum intends to create an online platform where industry’s best brains can come together with the collective intelligence of the community design team to generate solutions to design-out waste.

If the museum is successful, it plans to generate income by developing new design concepts for manufacturers across the UK.

Feeding the 5000: The Gleaning Network

The Gleaning Network diverts 36,000kg of wasted fruit and vegetables from farms to charities, providing food to vulnerable groups. The network uses produce that does not make it into supermarkets because of shape or size and channels it towards those in need. To date, five pilot projects have already salvaged several tonnes of fruit and vegetables from farms in Kent, Sussex and Lincolnshire, contributing to more than 10,000 meals.

The ambition is that the Gleaning Network UK will spread to 25 local gleaning hubs covering all regions across the UK over the next five years, using a franchise model that will salvage hundreds of thousands of kilos of fruit and vegetables from UK farms. The project has amazing potential for expansion. Having already helped to establish gleaning hubs in France, it is planning to do so in other countries via a food waste programme funded by the EU.

Proper Oils

Proper Oils aims to increase the amount of domestic waste cooking oil recycled - estimated currently at 0.1% - by providing collection points at community organisations, so making it easy for the homeowner to recycle.

It is working with collection partners to educate people on how to collect, store and recycle cooking oil. In return, Proper Oils will reward the host of the collection point, before the recovered oils are processed to make biodiesel.

During the next six months, the company hopes to work with community organisations to maximise the amounts of oil that is recycled. The aim is to encourage enough fat, oil and grease to be recycled to allow Proper Oils to expand the service into a larger area, and provide more collection and recycling points.

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