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Photo: Vincent Kessler/Reuters
Surplus bakery products account for nearly a third of the UK’s total retail food waste. Now Tesco is turning unsold bread into other products.

Remember this post on turning stale bread into beer? Stale bread is good for other products, too. Rebecca Smithers at the Guardian describes how the UK supermarket chain Tesco plans to make money while cutting waste.

“Britain’s largest supermarket chain is launching a drive to reduce food waste from bread by turning unsold baguettes and batons from its in-store bakeries into new products.

“Surplus bread is one of the biggest waste problems for food retailers, according to the government’s food waste adviser Wrap, particularly from freshly baked lines which have a short shelf life.

“Its most recent figures show surplus bakery products account for nearly a third (67,500 tonnes) of the UK’s total retail food waste a year. Bread is the second most wasted food in the home, with an estimated 1m loaves thrown away each day. It is also one of the most wasted items at every stage of the supply chain.

“Tesco said that, as well as being among the UK’s most popular breads, freshly baked baguettes and batons were among bread items left on its selves at the end of the day. The retailer said it had decided to use the unsold products to make a range of olive crostini and bread pudding which will be launched in 24 stores next week. It estimated the amount of unsold fresh bread could be cut by up to a half if the range was made available at all its outlets.

“Currently, Tesco’s surplus bread is reduced in price while still on sale, and some is sent to food distribution charities on the evening of its production. The remainder is then offered free in Tesco’s staff shop, after which it is sent for use in animal feed. …

“Said David Moon, the head of business collaboration at Wrap, ‘Using surpluses in store to make a delicious new product saves good food from spoiling and reduces the cost of waste to the business.’ ” Read more here.

If you would like to know more about the work of the sustainability consultant Wrap, check out the website. It says in part, “Our five year plan, ‘Resource Revolution, Creating the Future’ sets out how businesses, organisations and consumers can be part of a resource revolution that will re-invent, re-think and re-define how we use materials.

“It focuses on the three priority areas that will help best meet our goals – Food and Drink; Clothing and Textiles; and Electricals and Electronics, all of which are underpinned by resource management. …

“We work uniquely, and by design, in the space between governments, businesses, communities, thinkers and individuals – forging powerful partnerships and delivering ground-breaking initiatives to support more sustainable economies and society. We are world leaders in establishing the facts, getting the right people working together, then converting ideas into action and delivery on the ground. …

“Underpinning all our priority sectors is resource management, our focus on maximising the value of waste by increasing the quantity and quality of materials collected for re-use and recycling.”

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Photos: Sonia Narang for WHYY
Kamikatsu has become a hub for workshops on recycling. Employees from the Osaka branch of the Patagonia clothing store traveled here to learn waste-reduction techniques. Recyclables are sorted into 45 bins.

The other day I was reminiscing with my husband about the first time we took our recyclables to a voluntary recycling station outside Philadelphia. It stands out in my mind because John was a brand new baby in the car seat and the young man who assisted us said, “Oh, what a tiny baby,” and I was indignant because I thought John had gotten really big in his first three weeks!

Today most municipalities offer or demand curbside recycling, but if you think we are advanced in this department, consider Kamikatsu, Japan.

Sonia Narang reports at Philadelphia’s WHYY, “It’s not yet 8 a.m., and the recycling center in the town of Kamikatsu is already bustling. Locals arrive in a steady stream, unloading bags full of bottles, cans, and paper into dozens of clearly-labeled bins — all neatly lined up in rows.

“Kamikatsu is a rural town of about 2,000 people in the forested mountains of Japan’s Shikoku island.

“The town’s waste collection center runs a tight ship. Each resident gets a thick booklet of recycling guidelines.

“At the collection center, everything is carefully sorted and arranged with the help of staff. There are a whopping 45 different categories of recyclables, and the town recycles 80 percent of its trash.

“Akira Sakano heads up the town’s Zero Waste Academy, a non-profit organization that manages the recycling program. …

“ ‘We have newspapers, cardboard, scrap papers, shredded papers, paper containers, paper containers with aluminum packaging on back, paper cups, hard paper tubes, other papers,’ she says. …

“The town of Kamikatsu adopted a ‘zero waste’ policy in 2003. Before that, the town used to burn all its trash in incinerators. …

“When waste decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. A large amount of that methane leaks into the atmosphere, heating up the planet. …

“Zero waste has become a buzzword, and cities around the world are pledging to drastically reduce waste. But, in Japan — where land is scarce and there’s limited space for landfills — aggressive recycling has been a way of life for years.

“In addition to helping the environment, Sakano says recycling also has an economic benefit for the town. Incinerating trash can be expensive. …

“There’s no garbage truck service here. Almost everyone has to bring their trash into the waste collection center, and only about 20 percent ends up in the dumpster.

“For older residents who can’t drive themselves to the recycling center, the town does send a pick-up truck. Kazuyuki Kiyohara, who works for the town, also drives the truck around. He’s really concerned about using the earth’s resources wisely, and super enthusiastic in his personal life about recycling. He’s got 14 separate bins at home. …

“Everyone has to wash and dry all their food packaging. Many locals say that’s the most annoying part of the town’s trash policy.

“Back at the recycling center, I catch Daichi Hyakuno as he unloads bags of juice cans, plastics, and … dirty diapers. He moved here from Osaka a few years ago.

“ ‘At first, I was quite confused because the categorization was so detailed,’ he says. ‘It was easier in Osaka, since all I had to do was separate trash into burnables and non-burnables.’ … He’s not a big fan, but understands his social responsibilities. …

“Personally, I got better at recycling when it was practically mandatory. Fifteen years ago, when I lived in rural Japan, all the residents in my town had to write our names in big black letters on clear trash bags.

“It made me feel conscious about what I threw away: If I left even one bottle in there, the town wouldn’t pick up the trash, and everyone would see my bag left out there on the curb. …

“The town is small, but Kamikatsu is gaining international attention. Now outsiders are traveling here to take workshops at the academy.

“On the day I visit, folks from a Japanese branch of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia are here to learn.” More at WHYY, here.

Now who’s going to teach this town about composting so it can burn even less?

Hat tip: @morinotsuma, One More Voice, on twitter.

Once every two months, the town of Kamikatsu in Japan sends a truck to pick up bags of recyclables from elderly residents who are unable to drive to the recycling center.

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jesse-taylor

Photo: Kelly Howard
At Lincoln City Glass Center, a glassblower melts down objects made of clear glass to keep the studio supplied during a glass shortage — the unintentional consequence of environmental regulations and high demand from large overseas companies.

When I read recently about the closing of a glass-recycling center in Massachusetts, I didn’t have the imagination to consider all the causes or all the consequences.  What I did learn at the time was that beer companies were not using glass bottles as much and were moving to cans. That was all I knew.

Come to find out, thanks to the Law of Unintended Consequences, environmental regulations are having an effect on the amount of glass pellets available for a range of traditional purposes — including the glassblower’s art.

Lori Tobias writes at Oregon ArtsWatch, “On the Oregon Coast, creating a work of glass art is a bucket-list favorite, and there’s plenty of places to make that happen. But recent weeks have stressed some mom-and-pop glassblowing studios to the point of, well, a meltdown. It seems there’s just not enough glass to go around.

“Robin and William Murphy, owners of the Oregon Coast Glassworks in Newport, ran into problems earlier this month when they tried to buy a new supply of ‘cullet’ glass – furnace-ready recycled glass pellets that glassblowers turn into floats, bowls, and other art. There was ‘no glass anywhere available for purchase,’ Robin Murphy said. Nor would there be any until November, they were told. The shortage seems to be the culmination of stricter environmental laws, which led to a cutback in suppliers, compounded most recently by heavy demands on an overseas supplier.

“The Murphys have launched a fundraising raffle – of a glass sea turtle crafted by William – to help finance a new furnace that will melt ‘batch,’ a pelletized powder that is an alternative to cullet. It requires a natural gas furnace or what’s known in the industry as a ‘moly’ (short for molybdenum) furnace – a piece of equipment that generally comes with a price tag ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. The Murphys have a less expensive wire-melt furnace, but it doesn’t get hot enough to melt batch. …

“Oregon Coast Glassworks isn’t the only small shop facing the shortage. The Edge Art Gallery in South Beach is also experiencing it, as is the Lincoln City Glass Center. One of the largest of the dozen or so glassblowers on the central and north Coast with 21 employees, the Glass Center does have a ‘moly’ furnace, capable of melting batch or cullet. Owner and glass artist Kelly Howard prefers to use cullet, but she also has been unable to get any.

“Most glassblowers agree that the problem can be traced to 2016, when the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Environmental Protection Agency imposed stricter regulations on glass manufacturers, ultimately prompting the closure of two major suppliers. One was Spectrum, based in Woodinville, Wash., which supplied glass products for 40 years to many Pacific Northwest artists. Bullseye Glass Co. of Portland survived the crack-down, but does not provide the type of glass used by glass blowers.

“With Spectrum gone, glass blowing studios turned to a German manufacturer, Cristalica, which is distributed through Olympic Color Rods, headquartered in Seattle. But this summer, Cristalica failed to keep up with demand, in part because of the heavy use of existing equipment.

“Howard said she heard the German company had a furnace go down a couple of weeks ago ‘and didn’t give anyone a warning. They said there is no more, and what they had was all given to the big companies. All of the rest us didn’t get any.’ ”

More here. Raffle tickets for the sea turtle are available for $50 here or by calling the studio at 541-574-8226. The winner will be chosen Sept. 2. No more than 500 tickets will be sold.

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I enjoyed an upscale pre-auction showing of art and antiques with Stuga 40 on my recent trip. Next time I may need to check out an unusual shopping mall dedicated to recycled items. Steve Ghent wrote about it at Good News Network.

“A new generation of recycling has now gone from local drop-off centers to a shopping mall that sells only repaired or upcycled products. …

“ReTuna Återbruksgalleria … contains both a recycling center and a shopping mall. Customers can donate the items that they no longer need, then shop for something new – all in one stop.

“Dropped off goods are sorted into various workshops where they are refurbished or repaired accordingly. Products are then sorted into 14 specialty shops that include furniture, computers, audio equipment, clothes, toys, bikes, and gardening and building materials; all garnered from second-hand products. …

“The center, which is operated by the local municipality, has benefited the local economy by creating 50 new repair and retail jobs, and providing space for private start-ups and local artisans.

“The biggest bonus for the Swedish community is how the center relieves local government from the tremendous burden and expense of disposing of unwanted goods while turning potential ‘waste’ into profits.” More at Good New Network, here. Environmentalist Brad Zarnett posted the link on twitter.

By the way, if you are a big fan of recycling, be sure to check out the WordPress blog Things I Find in the Garbage, which is written by a Canadian who makes a living from things people throw out.

In his regular posts, he describes what he finds, what he usually gets for such items, where he sells them, and any little interactions with people who see him digging through their trash. He also offers resources like “How to Spot Bedbug Infested Garbage.”

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I’ve been encouraged to see an increased focus on keeping food from going to waste when so many people are hungry.

In the Boston area, for example, Spoiler Alert and 2012 Mass Challenge winner Lovin’ Spoonfuls are just two of several local organizations moving leftovers and surplus to places they can be used. And how about Daily Table, which makes delicious prepared meals from surplus ingredients and sells the meals at low prices?

Meanwhile, in France, action is taking place on a national scale.

Writes NewCo Shift, “Back in 2014, the third largest supermarket chain in France, Intermarché, launched their memorable ‘Inglorious’ fruits and vegetables campaign. To help reduce ‘cosmetic’ food waste, Intermarché sold scarred, disfigured and odd-shaped fruits and vegetables for 30 per cent less than ‘normal-looking’ produce. On the back of their playful marketing and waste-conscious campaign, many supermarkets all over the world followed suit and wonky veg has been the unlikely pin-up of food waste ever since.

“[France was] the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them to donate to food banks and charities instead. The law was a result of a grassroots campaign launched by councillor, Arash Derambarsh. After his petition gained more than 200,000 signatures and celebrity support in just four months, he managed to persuade French MP’s to adopt the regulation, which is now being copied in different parts of the world. Since the ban has been in place, over 300,000 tonnes of food has been saved from landfill and redistributed to France’s three networks of food banks. …

“Let’s not forget France’s most shimmering, sequin-laden, food-saving exports: Disco Soupe! Disco Soupe (or disco soup) has captured the imagination of the world, proving to be one of the most fun events out there, while reducing food waste. Strangers collide, music spins, food is saved from the clutches of the bin, chopped to the beat and eaten with rhythm.”

More at NewCo. If you like this topic, you can also subscribe to Zero Waste Weekly here. Do you tweet? You might like to follow the entertaining @UglyFruitAndVeg. Send your whimsical pictures of produce to those folks and join the fun.

Photo: Shift.NewCo.co

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Some school districts are pushing the envelope on recycling.

Michael Wines wrote for the NY Times in December, “Nothing seemed special about the plates from which students at a handful of Miami schools devoured their meals for a few weeks last spring — round, rigid and colorless, with four compartments for food and a fifth in the center for a carton of milk.

“Looks, however, can be deceiving: They were the vanguard of what could become an environmental revolution in schools across the United States.

“With any uneaten food, the plates, made from sugar cane, can be thrown away and turned into a product prized by gardeners and farmers everywhere: compost. If all goes as planned, compostable plates will replace plastic foam lunch trays by September not just for the 345,000 students in the Miami-Dade County school system, but also for more than 2.6 million others nationwide.

“That would be some 271 million plates a year, replacing enough foam trays to create a stack of plastic several hundred miles tall. …

“Compostable plates are but the first initiative on the environmental checklist of the Urban School Food Alliance, a pioneering attempt by six big-city school systems to create new markets for sustainable food and lunchroom supplies.” More here.

Apart from what the initiative does for school budgets, what it does for the environment, just think how educators are setting an example for children about working to find solutions to problems. Impressive.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times
Kindergartners in Manhattan being served lunch on plates made from sugar cane, which are expected to replace plastic foam trays next year in six districts.

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No reason a recycling facility can’t have an attractive design, right? As long as it isn’t expensive.

Michael Kimmelman wrote for the NY Times last month about a municipal facility that must make the recycling staff there feel good about going to work.

“Recycling in New York is a scrappy business,” Kimmelman writes. “Billions have gone toward building water tunnels, power plants, subways and sewage treatment facilities, but little toward an infrastructure of recycling. …

“But a Sims Municipal Recycling Facility will open shortly at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park. The city’s first big, state-of-the-art plant for processing discarded plastic, metals and glass, it promises jobs to nearby residents and, as the cost of exporting garbage out of state rises, some savings for the city. …

“The facility is understated, well proportioned and well planned — elegant, actually, and not just for a garbage site. It is an ensemble of modernist boxes squeezing art, and even a little drama, from a relatively meager design budget. …

“Instead of letting engineers design the plant, as often happens at an industrial site, Sims hired Selldorf Architects, a glamorous New York firm known for doing Chelsea art galleries and cultural institutions. …

“The idea? Partly to game the public review process, but also to build a well-designed plant — welcoming to the public, beckoning from the waterfront.” More here.

Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
A look inside the new Sims Municipal Recycling Facility in Brooklyn.

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