Global food waste creates agricultural, commercial, and individual sustainability limitations. Most waste derives from the consumption phase and is 100% preventable. When food goes uneaten, it contributes to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and resource exploitation.
A significant challenge associated with food waste is global hunger. While many individuals dispose of raw goods from their refrigerators each week, others struggle to meet their dietary needs. A large amount of residential and commercial waste derives from cities, and environmentalists are using smart technology to target the issue.
Food Waste Challenges in Urban Areas
Urban regions produce higher quantities of food waste because of their distances from agricultural regions. Restaurants and grocery stores outsource most of their goods because of their minimal access to green spaces. By the time fresh food reaches a city, it has a limited shelf life, or it has already expired.
Another contributing factor to urban food waste is the higher rate of eating out. Restaurants serve larger-than-average portions, leading to more garbage from leftovers. Large countries, like the U.S., produce nearly 33 billion pounds of food waste from restaurants alone.
When cities generate waste, they contribute to various adverse ecological effects. Food waste produces nearly 6% of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Farming, processing, packaging, and distributing goods all utilizes fossil fuels and generates air pollution.
Waste also accounts for a significant portion of global freshwater exploitation. The agricultural sector consumes about 70% of the global water supply. When individuals toss out 1 kilogram of beef, they are wasting nearly 50,000 liters of fresh water.
Environmentalists studied the challenges associated with food waste and developed smart solutions. Using the Internet of Things (IoT), clean energy, and artificial intelligence (AI), cities can minimize waste and adverse ecological effects.
IoT for Food Waste Composting
A team of developers in San Francisco created an IoT device to support California’s waste reduction regulations. Government officials in San Francisco established a food scrap composting law with the goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. The smart processing system monitors and sorts used and expired foods.
After the optical sorting machine separates organic materials from other recycled products, it transfers food to local composting centers. The facilities break down the materials, extracting useful nutrients to fertilize natural spaces.
Other cities utilize their excess waste to produce clean energy.
Some urban organizations collect used cooking oil and animal fat for reprocessing. Companies engaging in rendering recycling give animal-derived grease a second life, decreasing hard-to-decompose waste. Professionals use advanced technology to convert the waste into biodiesel.
Waste-derived biodiesel is significantly more sustainable than conventional power sources. During combustion, biodiesel releases nearly 74% fewer air pollutants compared to conventional fossil fuels. Reducing emissions in cities also reduces the urban heat island effect, protecting local ecosystems.
Converting food waste into electricity helps slow the growth of landfills and preserves natural spaces. It also minimizes a region’s reliance on fossil fuels. A country of 319 million individuals could generate enough energy from food waste to fuel 5.5 billion heaters for an hour.
AI for Waste Reduction
Other cities are using smart technology to hold producers responsible for their waste production. Environmental scientists and engineers created the PhoodX system, which monitors waste levels in kitchens using AI. The system comes with a tablet, scale, and product identification camera.
PhoodX accumulates waste data from kitchens, sending it autonomously to producers. Farmers and processing professionals can use the information to adjust their growth and distribution patterns, minimizing food waste. In regions with high levels of waste, producers may limit the quantities of their deliveries.
Consumers can also utilize the data to adopt efficient purchasing patterns. PhoodX tells individuals and chefs which items they are over-buying, over-serving, or wasting. Over time, utilizing AI and other smart technologies can significantly minimize urban food waste.
Constructing Smart Cities to Reduce Waste
When construction professionals develop smart cities, they must consider the impacts of food waste. Creating an efficient transportation system can improve recycling and composting and lower surface-level and atmospheric pollution. They may also repurpose the energy produced from waste to power the IoT and AI devices supporting smart cities.
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.