Supermarkets and food suppliers are often accused of wasting perfectly edible food when they discard deformed vegetables or ‘ugly’ fruits. This is exactly what prompted American speciality food and produce distributor, Baldor, to tackle excessive and unnecessary food waste.
By renaming its food scraps to ‘sparcs’, Baldor has been able to reuse the edible offcuts. Carrot tops, bean stems and broccoli trunks are not only edible but packed with nutrition that is often left to rot in the compost bucket.
“The narrative around food that we don’t traditionally eat is all negative,” says Baldor’s sustainability director Thomas McQuillan. Other campaigns that try to get people to buy ugly produce don’t have appetising names, such as ‘trash cooking’.“Instead of calling this trim or byproduct, let’s come up with a name for it,” he says. This rebranding effort will hopefully minimise food waste.
Where do the sparcs end up?
Since the conceptualisation of sparcs, Baldor has not produced any organic food waste. Any offcuts are used for either human or animal consumption, contributing to some ingenious reuse initiatives and the animal feed supply.
Trimmings such as strawberry tops, watermelon rinds and other fruit peels are sold to juice companies for their cold-pressed and highly-nutritious drinks. Some of the vegetable sparcs are sold to restaurants and soup kitchens to make sauces, soups and broths. McQuillan is also playing with the idea of dehydrating the sparcs and turning them into a mix of vegetable chips.
Sparcs that are not edible for humans, such as mango pips and thick melon rinds, are sold to pig farmers, chicken feed factories or composted on-site. Sparcs that fall on the floor or come off customers’ plates are added to Baldor’s own ‘waste-to-water’ system.
A new way of thinking about food waste
According to McQuillan, landfills are no longer an option for food waste. “There is a substantial benefit to the bottom line in two ways: if you are able to sell sparcs, now you have revenue generation. You’re also saving whatever it would cost to eliminate it,” he argues.
Instead of paying a company to remove food scraps and waste, other companies and restaurants are willing to pay for the sparcs which can be delivered free of charge. All that is needed to make this concept for successful and to catch on in other parts of the world is a new way of thinking about food scraps.
People need to believe that it is a good idea and stop thinking of offcuts as inedible waste. Although it is easier to dump the scraps in a bin and let someone else deal with it, this new way of thinking could be so beneficial to the environment, society and industry.
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