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Reducing food waste across 3 continents

Globally, around a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. As well as being an ethical and economic issue, producing food that goes to waste also depletes the environment of limited natural resources.

Learn about two of our projects looking to reduce food waste and support farmers to make the most of their harvests. And find out what you can do to reduce food waste in your own home by giving a new lease of life to the contents of your kitchen bin.

From rotten veg to renewable fuel in Kenya

In food markets in Nairobi, fruit and vegetables that aren’t sold are often dumped. Left to decompose, they pollute the streets and create an extra burden on the city’s already stretched waste collection systems.

Up to 40% of Kenya’s food is lost after it has left the farm and before it’s bought by consumers. Reasons include delays getting the food to market and a lack of adequate transportation and storage facilities. The scale of food waste contributes to Kenya’s food insecurity.

We’re working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to support market traders and waste workers to reduce food waste in Nairobi’s food markets. During this pilot project, we’ll team up with local authorities and private companies to develop a holistic food waste strategy.

Our activities in the markets of Nairobi will include supporting existing waste workers to form registered groups to make cleaning up the markets more organised. Organic waste will be collected and used to make compost and renewable fuel (biogas) by private companies.

Visit the FAO website for a deeper insight into this exciting pilot project.

Reuse your food waste with composting

How we dispose of our food waste has an impact on the environment. Follow the lead of waste collectors in Nairobi by converting your leftover fruits and vegetables into compost. Composting is an easy way to reduce food waste that would go to landfill and it’s very easy to get started.

The BBC Good Food Guide to composting is a great place to start.

Cascara: the coffee-tea hybrid travelling from Peru to Nepal

Coffee is one of the world’s most widely traded farming commodities. Globally, around 25 million farming families grow coffee. Most of them are smallholders who are reliant on the crop to earn a living.

The dry husks of coffee skins are a by-product of growing and processing coffee beans. They are often thrown away. However, the smallholder farmers we work with in Peru dry the husks and sell them as cascara tea, a cheaper and less caffeinated drink than coffee. The flavour is said to be somewhere in between coffee and tea. Selling cascara provides Peruvian farmers with a valuable extra income.

We wanted smallholder farmers elsewhere in the world to learn about this extra income stream. So we organised for farmers in Peru to share their knowledge and techniques with farmers we work with in Nepal, where coffee skin husks are usually thrown away.

Now cascara is catching on in Nepal. It’s early days, but one of the country’s leading media outlets has heard about our work and published an article about this unique drink and the role of Practical Action in introducing it to the country.

A second life for your used coffee grounds

Husks aren’t the only coffee product that can be reused. If you brew a pot of coffee every morning, you have a useful source of organic matter at your fingertips. Don’t throw your coffee grounds in the bin. They can be used in multiple ways in the garden, from composting to fertiliser, and even as a pest deterrent.

Get all the details from The Spruce guide to using coffee grounds in your garden.

Reducing and recycling waste around the world

Explore Practical Action’s approach to waste management further through our Managing Our Waste 2021 report, which calls for a people-centred approach to the waste crisis.

Find out how, rather than focusing on waste flows and particular types of waste, we must turn attention to the waste services people need, and to opportunities for the most marginalised to be a core part of the solution.

We’re working with people across the globe to implement ingenious ways to reuse or recycle waste. We can all do our bit, by supporting the waste heroes and by making small changes in our own lives that add up to a big difference.


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