Skip to main content

By Ellie Green, Stategist Making Waste Wonderful

Food waste. A term with all sorts of negative connotations: stench, rot, uselessness, ugliness.

The statistics are even uglier:

  • An area larger than China is being used to grow food that is never eaten
  • All of the world’s nearly 1 billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe alone
  • 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten

We clearly have a big problem. A problem that’s not spoken about or understood enough yet. And a problem for everyone, not just Gen Z.

Many of Gen Z share an intuitive concern for the planet and are active in hacking ways to protect the future health of the environment we all share. This is due in part to their early awareness of wider social issues via technology and platforms, and also a result of the era they have been born into – a time of environmental crisis, extreme weather and activism, which have all been the backdrop to their coming of age.

In a 2016 survey that included over 5000 members of Gen Z across 4 continents, 40% called out climate change as their top priority, ahead of the economy, terrorism, poverty, and unemployment. Environmental issues have shot to the top of their agenda and they want to find and embrace ways to fix things.

This is a fertile space for brands to engage them in. When done right, Gen Z are happy to spend a bit more on sustainable brands and even go step further and become an advocate for whatever they feel good about spending their money on. Brands who’ve taken an anti-plastic stance like Swell, Allbirds, and the Adidas x Parley for the Oceans collaboration have all been given a Gen Z stamp of approval.

Turning away from plastic caused these brands to think creatively and innovate around the problem with pleasing results. Now is the time for food waste to be the next hero in the war on planet protection. Food waste can be both beautiful and useful. Read on, we’re serious!

Food Waste Homewares

A bio material innovation company
Image credit: @chips_board

Ever thought about what happens to the potato skins left over from the production of oven chips? No, us either, until we saw this and now we’re obsessed. Chip(s) Board LTD has partnered with McCain to use throwaway bits of old potatoes and repurpose them into biodegradable homewares like cutlery and coasters.

Food Waste Packaging

Biodegradable Plastic From Shrimp Shells
Image credit: Anthropocene Magazine

Chitin bioplastic is the brainchild of a 15 year old Gen Z, Angelina Arora, who noticed the similarities between prawn shells and plastic. Researchers across the planet, including a team at Harvard, are working to develop it into commercially usable material. And unlike regular plastic, which takes thousands of years to degrade, chitin bioplastics take weeks.

Food Waste or Food?

Sustainable snacks
Image credit: @barnana

More obvious, but equally effective, brands like Barnana are reframing what we consider is only good for landfill. Barnana sells banana and plantain snacks made from bruised or overripe specimens that would otherwise be left to rot on plantations. Similarly Netherlands-based Kromkrommer turns imperfect vegetables into soup.

Food Waste Fashion

Sustainable fashion future
Image credit: @orangefiberbrand

Fashion is the most recent high profile villain in climate change, with awareness going viral about the environmental implications of fast fashion. Whilst big brands scramble to respond and do better, the creative people behind Orange Fiber are going one step further. They use citrus juice by-products to create ‘silky and ethereal’ sustainable fabric. This year, H&M Conscious partnered with them and the equally innovative Pinatex, who make a leather alternative from pineapple leaves.

Human creativity has only just started playing in this space, yet food waste is already being used in more ways than we could ever have imagined. Brands across categories have an opportunity to make waves and earn the respect of Gen Z by embracing its potential.

How can your brand make food waste wonderful?