September 10 2020

A new way to defeat food waste and food loss: Food WAYste

Marco Imperiale

FAO estimates that 1/3 of all food produced worldwide, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes a year, is lost or goes to waste. The Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) target 12.3 states that by 2030 it is necessary to halve per capita global food waste at consumer and retail levels and reduce significantly post-harvest losses, as well as those along production and supply chains. We are witnessing a waste of excessive stocks and heightened risks about food safety, and we need concrete solutions to already existing problems.

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So, Marco, can you please tell me more about Food WAYste?
FoodWAYste is the first food waste legal directory accessible to everybody worldwide. Thanks to this interactive guide, food and business operators (FBOs) can now easily understand food waste laws in the countries where they operate, and they can play their part to make a positive impact. Users can choose a country available in the list and select a filter to get information about specific issues (e.g. donation requirements, fiscal incentives, storage conditions etc.). If they want more information, there are links to specific regulations. They can also compare foreign legislations in a structured and efficient way.

Everything started in April 2020 when the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – Global Legal Hackathon Challenge launched an international contest. The goal was to deliver a tech solution on a legal matter, such a website or an app, in only three weeks. My firm, LCA, launched a challenge about how to minimize food waste and food loss in the food supply chain, so we decided to tackle down the problem on our own.

Firstly, we assembled our international team, expanding to 13 professionals from 7 different countries. Then we created the prototype in less than two weeks. Finally, after receiving validation by over a hundred colleagues and friends from all over the world, and implementing some of the precious suggestions we received, we delivered our final project. It was hard work, and even harder considering that everything was done remotely during the lockdown caused by the spread of coronavirus, but we are proud of it.

Why did you choose such a topic?
As a group of lawyers, designers, and engineers, food waste and food loss in the food supply chain appeared immediately as one of the thorniest problems FBOs had to tackle during the lockdown period because the approach to food was changing dramatically. New consumer trends became quickly evident as public and private places were closed; supply chain relations changed within a few days, and blockages of transport routes made connections impossible.

Furthermore, and despite the current sanitary emergency, FBOs have always been in trouble with food waste and food loss regulations, due to the inexistence of specific repositories and the lack of awareness about business incentives they can take advantage of. I highlight that regulations in the food waste field are very complicated because they vary from country to country and there is a mixture of hard law and best practices. Furthermore, sometimes there are no rules at all, despite the importance of the issue.

Why is the project innovative?
As lawyers, one of our main tasks is supporting companies, people, and institutions complying with the current rules, and providing a tech solution can sometimes be more effective than a long and complex legal opinion. I believe that making difficult laws easy to understand, through the use of visual elements and legal design, is a great way to help FBOs dealing with food surplus. Farmers, producers, traders, and consumers can now easily read about legal measures at every single step in the food supply chain. If they need a more structured help, they have an email address to contact us, so that we can orient them on the best possible solutions.

I would also stress that the project helps promoting better behaviours through an easier communication of the law. We hope that food waste experts will use this tool to educate policymakers on best practices.

What are your next goals?
We have already planned to expand the range of countries, languages and filters to make the directory more complete, and we also aim to improve the website user experience and the range of exposure. As always, the best has yet to come...

Article author:
Marco Imperiale

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