Upcycling food waste for sustainable packaging

Food waste is a growing global concern for the foodservice industry and beyond, and upcycling has emerged as a way to work toward balance. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over one-third of all food produced is wasted or lost, translating to 2.3 million tonnes of edible food being wasted each year.   

Along with maximizing ingredients and better managing production and inventory, upcycling offers the opportunity to reduce food waste, cut costs, and increase efficiency. It starts in the kitchen, by finding creative ways to use every part of every ingredient whenever you can.

Upcycling is also occurring with plastics, turning them from single-use into recycled building materials, decking, and furniture. Other materials like juice pouches are even being used to make totes and backpacks to keep them out of the landfill.  

But upcycling is expanding and evolving, developing most recently into using food waste as a packaging material to cut down on non-recyclable materials and single-use plastics while using up leftover food.

Some of this eco-friendly innovation involves using the fibre and protein from legumes, mycelium (the vegetative root structure of mushrooms), milk protein, and modified proteins combined with additives to create functional packaging for food delivery and more.

Along with limiting waste, upcycling has other green benefits, like cutting down on the methane created by food as it decomposes in the landfill and helping to meet consumer demand for more eco-friendly practices in the industry. 

Sustainability matters to Canadians. Recently, consumers were asked to rate the importance of restaurants making sustainable choices. Results were consistent across the board, with QSRs (at 57 per cent), fast casuals (at 56 per cent), fine dining (at 56 per cent), and casual dining (at 55 per cent). So, upcycling is a way for restaurants to attract (and retain) like-minded customers.

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Upcycling offers a way for restaurants to help address the global food waste issue, cut down on their costs, and relate better to their customers. Whether it’s reusing materials, better managing inventory, or investing in eco-friendly packaging, upcycling is a growing trend that benefits the foodservice industry and makes an environmental difference.