Politicians Trial New Food Waste Technology In Their Homes

winnow-1Five individuals from political parties across the UK are volunteering to be amongst the first homes to try a new solution to fight food waste.

Designed to help reduce the 7m tonnes of food waste thrown away by UK households each year, the Winnow app acts as a smart meter to monitor food waste, and is being trialled as part of Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more programme, established to help UK households save money.

The app allows users to track and weigh the food items they’re throwing away, along with the reasons for doing so, such as spoiling, over-portioning, or burning during prep. It then produces a report highlighting both the financial cost of the waste and how it could be cut down.

Previously used only in commercial kitchens Winnow has now been adapted for domestic use and, through “gamifying” the process and highlighting the financial value of waste, the smart meter is expected to have a big impact in participating homes.

Only trialled in six UK households to date – in the Waste less, Save more trial town of Swadlincote, Derbyshire – initial results saw food waste fall by an average of 68% across the households, which would save families an average of £268 a year.

“When it comes to food waste we’re a nation in denial, frequently underestimating what we throw away. Thankfully this trial can really hammer home the amount of food going in the bin, which is the first step to making a change.”

Amongst those taking part in the new trial is Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield, former Shadow Environment Secretary and current chair of Parliament’s influential Environment Audit Committee. She’ll be joined by leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, Steven Agnew MLA.

Also signed up are Mark Pawsey, Conservative MP for Rugby; Margaret Ferrier, the Scottish National Party’s MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West; and Maurice Golden, Conservative MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

The trial will run for four weeks with findings to be announced in the New Year. As with all trials under Waste less, Save more, Winnow will be considered for a wider roll-out should it prove successful.

Speaking of the trial Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Energy & Engineering for Sainsbury’s, said: “Our kitchens have long played a home for innovative tech, but it’s no longer confined to our smoothie makers and coffee machines. Winnow’s brilliant because it not only highlights the cost associated with food waste, but challenges you to beat your own records.”

“When it comes to food waste we’re a nation in denial, frequently underestimating what we throw away. Thankfully this trial can really hammer home the amount of food going in the bin, which is the first step to making a change. To have such high profile names on board is testament not only to the importance of the issue, but also their commitment to reduce food waste. We’re all excited to see the results!”

Reducing Food Waste 

Though the Winnow app is still in trial, there are simple ideas that people can try at home now in order to save money:

  • Keep a waste diary: by making a simple note each time you throw food away, you’ll realise how just how often you do it without realising! Likewise keep a track as to which could have been avoided and why, and it’ll highlight ways in which you can cut down waste in future.
  • Invest in scales: if you want to go one step further, invest in a simple set of scales and weigh food before you throw it. You’ll be surprised as to how it adds up, and discouraged from creating more!
  • Plan and challenge: plan meals for the week, and challenge yourself to use up the items in your fridge before going out to buy more. Remember, you can batch cook and freeze produce that’s beginning to wilt!
  • Get the family involved: particularly if weighing foods or keeping a diary, make sure to involved the other members of the household. Kids in particular can find fun in trying to cut their waste week on week.

Each year UK households bin 7m tonnes of food, of which 4.2m tonnes is thought to be avoidable. In financial terms, the average family will spend £700 a year on food that goes uneaten, meaning there are big savings to be made.

However, recent research from Sainsbury’s found a perception gap with over 80% of UK families are under the impression they waste little, or no food. What’s more, despite the increased prominence of food waste as an issue, only 3% of Brits currently feel there’s a stigma attached to binning food.

To help families realise the potential savings, Sainsbury’s launched Waste less, Save more; a £10m investment to help cut domestic food waste across the UK. Following a nationwide search, the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote was selected as a test-bed for activity, with Sainsbury’s pledging a £1m investment to trial new initiatives across a one year period. Those that prove successful will be considered for a roll-out nationwide in the months and years ahead.

Other trials taking place in the town including the trial of Olio, an app to encourage food sharing amongst neighbours, and the ‘Fab Foods’ programme which has been designed to engage with local schools. Elsewhere households are testing innovative smart fridges with internal cameras. By allowing residents to view contents via their smartphone, these fridges eliminate the risk doubling up during food shops, a practice which costs the UK £1.5bn each year.

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