The latest food waste reduction strategy to come out of Montreal is a grocery store that aims to operate on a “zero-waste” policy. Located in the Rosemont area, Méga Vrac sells food in bulk and does not offer any products that are packaged. Instead, the store asks that customers bring their own containers to fill with purchases.
Image: The Canadian Grocer
Food packaging is a major contributor to waste, as food it often sold in packages that are too large for people to consume. However, with stores such as Méga Vrac, customers can choose the amount they need while avoiding excess packaging that food is usually found in.
Previously, the store was not zero-waste but co-owner, Ahlem Belkheir said she was inspired to transform it because her customers were already bringing in their own containers. She saw an opportunity for change as she realized the demand for zero-waste existed. Belkheir also is focussing on preventing waste at its source by bringing their own barrels and containers to their suppliers.
Belkheir told The Canadian Grocer that she is not wary of competing zero-waste stores, because she believes everyone – including other grocery stores – should be working towards reducing waste as well. “Our lives should become zero waste.”
Read more about Méga Vrac here.
A new tactile, bioreactive expiry date allows consumers to feel when their food is no longer fresh. Invented by London-based designer Solveiga Pakstaite, “Bump Mark” feels smooth when a package of food is fresh and will turn rough and bumpy when it has expired. This process is due to a gelatin substance inside the package that decays at a similar rate to food. As it has similar properties to perishable food like meat, the gelatin will be affected if food is not stored properly, or exposed to warm temperatures during transportation, making it an accurate reflection of the freshness of food inside the package.
The printed expiry dates we see on food today can be unclear to consumers and can contribute significantly to household food waste. Consumers have no way of knowing if food has been stored incorrectly, or if the food has gone bad while in the package. The bioreactive nature of Bump Mark offers a solution to the confusion.
“The label simply copies what the food in the package is doing, so the expiry information is going to be far more accurate than a printed date.” Pakstaite said in an interview with The Guardian.
When she started out, Pakstaite wanted to create a tactile that could be used by the blind, so that they could know when food had expired. However, knowing that large companies would not likely make a sweeping change for a small part of the population, Pakstaite went on to market the Bump Mark as a tool to reduce food waste as well as empower the blind. Her work has made headlines around the world and has earned her the James Dyson Award, a charity run by the James Dyson Foundation that supports innovations in technology, engineering and design.
The Bump Mark can be altered depending on the food by altering its concentration of gelatin.The more gelatin in the package, the slower it decays. It can be applied to many products but it may be most useful for animals products like meat, dairy and seafood.
You can read more about Pakstaite’s work on her website.
When it comes to food shopping, it is often difficult to purchase the foods we want while avoiding the excess packaging. A few supermarkets have taken the approach of making the customer bring the packaging, and selling everything packaging free (an approach that used to be the norm). This is appealing to environmentalists, but also bargain hunters who will pay less without the plastic wrap.
In France, ‘Day by Day’ is a small chain selling 450 unpackaged products that are mostly dry goods. In Berlin, Original Unverpackt is also selling food without the bags. Of course if you don’t have a store that’s specifically committed to this, it’s still possible to cut back on packaging by bringing your own bags and shopping at places with less packaging, such as farmers markets or bulk food stores. This is relatively simple, but requires some changes to our habits that can help us avoid unnecessary waste. Like the tagline for the Strictly Bulk in Toronto, says: “because you don’t eat packaging.”