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Pictures in the bin, Fridgecam, and the digital War on Waste

We are becoming more aware of the problem of food waste, but we still throw away large amounts of produce when it is not necessary. It’s time to stop lecturing us about our bad habits and start looking at ways to change them. Digital technologies can be a great tool to help.

In the UK and EU, food waste has decreased by 21 % in the past five years. The problem remains. Instead of trying to convince people that food waste is a bad thing (we know this already), we should find new ways to shop for, cook, consume, and dispose of food. These new approaches are good for the planet and can help businesses and families save money.

Why do we chuck food?

Although few people intentionally waste food, households can throw out up to six meals per week. While supermarket promotions and inefficiencies within the distribution cycle can be blamed for much of the waste, recent research has shown that the busy lifestyles of people, their knowledge of food and labels, and their tendency to eat large portions are also major factors.

In research, we discovered that food wastage is not the result of one act, such as cooking or shopping, but rather of the links between these activities. Shopping habits can be affected by your social life. When you finally do manage to buy food, you may find that there are fewer supermarkets open and less time for shopping. It could be smaller supermarkets that sell food in large quantities. You may have to purchase a kilogram of onions instead of just one onion. Other factors can also complicate the situation, like knowing what you have already at home before you go to the supermarket. This could lead you to throw out more food.

By connecting spaces (such as home and supermarket) and by clicking people, digital technology helps to alleviate some of these problems.

Inside your refrigerator: News

The refrigerator is a vision of the future. It knows when it is low on milk and will order more from the store. Just-in-time shopping could reduce the need for bulk purchases as part of your weekly grocery shop.

FridgeCam is a prototype that allows customers to view what’s in their fridge. The results were unexpected.

The Fridgecam is in action.

Some people find it more useful to observe how and when food is removed from the refrigerator rather than checking its contents while in the supermarket. Food consumption patterns can help us understand whether we really need extra milk or if we are buying too much.

Miles to go

It is important to consider the impact that food production has on food waste. Food miles can be used to determine the distance that a product has traveled before it reaches our plates. This is an area where we are not really making any progress. A survey found that only 6% of consumers avoided purchasing products due to concerns about food miles.

The concept of food mileage is difficult to understand. Digital technology could also play a role here, for example, if consumers were able to watch videos about where coffee was grown before making a purchase decision. The Internet of Things may change the way businesses mark their videos. You could easily trace the origins and travels of all products you purchase if you were able to scan them.

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Jane S. King

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