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Trash-Talk Event Report

On the evening of 13th June 2017, Students’ Impact Initiative hosted the first Trash Talk at premises of Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) Campus, at Executive Academy Foyer. We gathered experts on food waste and waste in general with students willing to learn, ask questions and hear the solutions. Aligned with our mission to engage new crowds, we were happy to welcome 60 participants from different interdisciplinary backgrounds and universities. While around 40% of the student participants were from WU Wien, the rest consisted of a diverse group of people from University of Vienna, BOKU, Modul University, TU Wien, Fachhochschule des bfi Wien, Medical University of Vienna, Konservatorium Vienna and many more.

Together with the four speakers and participants we accomplished to fulfill three major goals of the event. Namely, we raised awareness of the public about the issue, we educated participants about general and food waste and we provided alternatives and ideas on how to avoid and reduce food waste.

Food Waste in Austria

Figure 1: Source: Zero Waste Austria

Starting off with the first section ‘’We all waste, who’s to blame?’’, Helene Pattermann, founder of “Zero Waste Austria”, provided hard facts about food waste sources in Austria, as well as about waste in general. Helene stated that Zero Waste does not seek to manage, but to eliminate waste, and, therefore, represents a very challenging goal. In order to achieve this goal, a transition from a linear to circular economy is an imperative.

Along with cycles of the circular economy, Helene explained the ideal waste hierarchy, a model that proposes sustainable behavior instead of wasteful habits (Figure 1). The application of the model would help diminish the avoidable food waste (14% of total waste) in Austrian households, kitchen scraps (11%) would ideally be composted and other waste containing mostly of unnecessary packaging could be reused, reduced or avoided completely. This would mean a reduction of more than 200.000 Kg tonnes of food waste per year on a national level and could add an extra 263 Euros to an Austrian household’s yearly budget.

But that’s not all. Even more could be avoided by optimising existing production, operational and waste systems of food suppliers and distributors, which include markets and catering companies. Helene also informed the audience of the new tech and research based solutions, that the Zero Waste community is working on, and she shared the invitation for participation in the upcoming projects.

Don’t judge a carrot by its cover

The following speaker, Claudia Sacher, joined us all the way from Innsbruck to share her insights on using the ‘‘unused’’ in the second section called “Don’t judge a carrot by its cover”. Claudia is founder of “Feld” (Verein zur Nutzung von Ungenutztem), an initiative that uses food that would otherwise be thrown away due to its (un)aesthetic characteristics and turns it into delicious meals and yearly food supplies. The ‘’unused’’ represents the portion of food manufacture that was intended for human nutrition, but failed to reach the end-consumer, due to what we call the ‘’food beauty contest’’. In this selection process, a significant portion of nutrition sources that have a less appealing look, shape or color, are being dismissed and, sadly, thrown away. This is seen as an incentive for overproduction that amounts to roughly 30% of total food production in Austria.

Feld association works on putting an end to this waste phenomenon in three main phases. In collection phase the members gather the unused food either from agricultural areas, markets or food chains. Due to the perceived low value of this food, it tends to be free of charge or very cheap. Subsequently, the food is transformed by means of good will and creativity, in nothing more than a ordinary household kitchen. Participation in the processing (transformation) phase is on voluntary basis and tends to enlarge the learning about food potentials. Thereafter, in the ‘’pass on’’ stage, ready-to-go products are being distributed by carefully selected green means of transportation. Throughout the whole process, special attention is dedicated to sustainability: from the collection and harvesting, to packaging choice and sterilization of recollected glass jars.

Apart from delivering tasty results in form of beautiful ready meals and conserved food, Feld manages to prove that there is a demand for 100% of food supply, which reflects in the consumption velocity of their bestseller products, such as potato-poppy seed-jam. Lastly, Claudia also mentioned future goals and projects of the association, with an invitation to become a part of the inspiring, creative and experienced society of (food) change makers.

Can you live waste-free in Vienna?

In section called ‘’Can you live waste-free in Vienna?’’, expert on Zero Waste lifestyle, Annemarie Miesbauer, told us about her reasons and ways for doing the right thing. We found out that the waste-free lifestyle is not only possible but also enjoyable. After watching the movie ‘’Trashed’’, Annemarie came to realize she wanted to adopt a new way of living, and, consequently, she managed to fit all of her one-year waste in a jar. She believes that everybody can do the same with little research and advice, so she decided to share tips and tricks on this topics in her blog named Ein Jahr im Glass.

Figure 2: Source: Ein Glas Im Jahr

She summarized her way of thoughtful consumption pattern in a 5R’s pyramid model (Figure 2) that resembles the one mentioned in the first section. According to the model, the consumer is able to navigate and optimize consumption and waste behavior in five consecutive considerations. The first R stands for refuse (to buy what you don’t need), second for reduce (what you have to buy), third for reuse (what was bought already and could last longer), fourth for recycle (what you can’t use anymore the way you’d like to) and, finally, fifth for rot (or let rot what is of more use to the earth than to you).

Following this philosophy, she claims we need to think about not only what we buy, but also how and where we buy, i.e. we need to choose environmentally beneficial, unpackaged products, which are mostly found at open markets and innovative bio shops, we need to plan our groceries shopping and bring our own shopping bag in order to avoid daily consumption of plastic and paper bags, and we need to discover multiple purpose of objects, so we can reduce shopping to what is really essential for a healthy life. In other words, less is more. More time, more money, more nature, more sustainability, more fulfillment, more life.

Alternative packaging solutions

In the ‘’Smart kitchen for students’’ section, our fourth speaker, Benedikt Wurth, gave an inspiring view on the future of packaging and storing. As a former student of Environmental Sciences and Bio-Resources Management, he decided to implement the production of an alternative packaging solution in Austria. Thus, the family business named Jaus’n Wrap makes biodegradable cloths out of four fully sustainable raw materials: tree resin, jojoba oil, beeswax and cotton. The production might be time consuming and the materials needed might be hard to get, but Benedikt claims that it’s  worth the hard work.

The cloths are fully harmless for the environment, and due to the natural composition they not only preserve food, but also expand its expiry date, by providing the wrapped food sufficient airflow, and keeping the moisture and light away. This results in less food waste, due to longer freshness of the food. For these reasons, beeswax cloths are a perfect replacement for wasteful alternatives like cling film, aluminium foil and plastic Tupperware. Benedikt’s speech confirmed that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Every speech was followed by a lively Q&A session, sparked up by a set of questions from the motivated audience. The audience had a unique opportunity to engage in discussions on food waste related topics and to get meaningful answers and first-hand advices. Our organization closed the evening, by expressing gratitude to the speakers and the audience. Our mission and further projects were set clear.

As the event came to an end, participants were invited to join the networking lounge, during which they established new friendships and got to chat in person over a glass (or couple of glasses) of wine. We also had a taste of zero-waste bio chocolate sweets from Lunzers Maß-Greißlerei. Around 10pm it was time to say goodbye until our next inspiring event.

As there is more to be done, learned and shared, SII would like to invite all of you who want to see more of similar events happening in future, to join us, apply or support us here. If you would like to stay updated on food waste related issues and if you don’t want to miss our next events, you can like our Facebook page here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or comments by sending us a message on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Here is a recap in video form:

Until next time,

Students’ Impact Initiative