Carly Fraser’s research on food waste in Guelph

Carly Fraser, a member of our research team, was recently profiled by the CBC. Her project involved a photovoice study of the moment when “food” becomes “waste” in Guelph households.

Carly CBC

The article discusses a very successful event that shared some of the results from this study; we will share video of the event when it becomes available.

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“Giving Waste a New Life”: a Behind the Scenes Tour at Guelph’s Waste Diversion Facility

Happy Sustainability Week from Guelph Food Waste! This past Monday, University of Guelph students went on a tour to the Waste Diversion Plant located on Watson Rd. in Guelph. After donning super exciting reflective vests, hardhats, eye protectors, and toe covers, a group of about 15 students spanning a variety of disciplines were taken to the organic composting facility as well as the recycling plant.

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Interactive Exhibit at the Guelph Waste Innovation Centre

Guelph is a Tier 1 waste management facility, which means that all waste that comes into this facility is processed on site. The waste received at this specific facility is from the City of Guelph and the Region of Waterloo. This facility formerly recycled plastics and other matter from Michigan, but has recently ceased those operations.

The city of Guelph operates a rotational waste collection system: Week A and B. Residents are asked to put out your organic waste weekly, along with either recyclables or trash, rotating every other week.

Organic matter that is taken to the facility becomes compost over several weeks. It is put in a series of tunnels with moisture and temperature carefully monitored. After about 6 weeks, the compost is then of a quality that is suitable for agriculture or landscaping purposes.

Recycling in Guelph is sorted by both machine and by hand. Plastics, paper, and metal are separated. Metal is first separated by magnet. Like items are consolidated and then put into large pallets to be re-sold. Recently, the facility has started to accept Styrofoam as a recyclable item, but only if residents drop it off themselves. In the future, residents may be able to put their Styrofoam waste in their blue bins, but not now.

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Unsorted recyclables just arrived at the facility

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Note the large belts that begin the sorting process. This is the first step before recyclables are sorted optically and by hand

If you are interested in touring the waste facility yourself, you can contact the Guelph Resource Innovation Center by visiting their website here.

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Tour participants Kelly and Marion

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Tour participant and intrepid reporter, Amy

4.5 kgs of food a week! Does MY house waste that?

Here at the Guelph Food Waste Research Project, we are most interested in households’ food wasting habits: what you waste, why you waste it, and your beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours around food waste. It’s a fascinating exploration! For two years, we’ve been collecting data on how much and what kinds of food we are wasting at home, and then connecting this data with survey results to discern the reasons why we waste food at home.

Here is a little peek at some of our findings

The average household’s weekly food waste production was 4.5kg. Do you waste this much food? Think about it carefully, because another finding we uncovered was that the more you are concerned about waste, the less food you throw away. 64% of all food waste was avoidable or possibly avoidable. Think next time you want to toss food. Is it actually inedible?

  • Is it leftovers you don’t feel like anymore? Think of the cost that went into producing that meal, and how much more energy it will take you to cook a new one.
  • Is it nearing its best-before date? Toss it in the freezer or fridge to halt that progression of time.
  • Is it more than your family can eat? Next time, plan your shopping so you don’t end up in this situation. Making a list and checking your fridge before setting out is a really simple action that is proven to significantly help you prevent food waste.
  • Is it really “waste”? Why do we cut off the most nutritious parts of apples, potatoes and carrots—their peels? Maybe think twice about chucking beet greens, carrot tops, and bones. All of these can be repurposed into more delicious food!
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Using food scraps to start new sprouts

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A photo from our audits of the organic waste stream

50% of avoidable food waste was fresh fruits and vegetables. Come see us at the Green Living Show for a suite of tips/tricks on how to extend the life of your fresh produce. But in the meantime, check out the highly useful storage tips chart here. Who knew apples are finicky bedfellows that cause other types of produce to age faster?

Eating out more means more food waste. You do a big weekly shop, but get busy during the week and end up buying lunch at work, or picking up take-out on the way home. …but then all the food in your fridge remains uneaten, and eventually turns into waste. If this sounds like a problem you have, look here for easy meal planning resources to help you take control of your hectic weeks! Or tell the LoveFoodHateWaste website what you’ve got, and they’ll give you recipes to save you the “what’s for dinner” headache.

The more food-aware and waste-aware our respondents were, the less food waste they created. So don’t stop learning and thinking about food waste, and keep experimenting with new tactics to lower your food waste levels…so you can boast that you are lowering these sobering statistics!

Food Waste Hackathon 2014 winners

Congratulations to Team Cozy (Viktoria Cermanova, Nicolas Durish, Michel Wojitas, and Gabriel Pothier-Maudsley) for their winning entry at this weekend’s Student Food Waste Hackathon at the University of Guelph!

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This team developed a proposal and supporting software for a “Smartbin” system  to “collect organic food materials and weigh the amount of food waste, then calculate the amount of money lost individually and the financial loss for the school.”

We are hopeful that this and other innovative contest entries can be further developed to help address food waste at the University of Guelph and on other university campuses.

For more info about the Hackathon: https://www.uoguelph.ca/foodinstitute/event/student-food-waste-hackathon-feeding-nine-billion-challenge

For more photos and updates on this event: https://twitter.com/hashtag/foodhack14