Food waste is the world’s dumbest problem

Food waste is the world’s dumbest problem

MIT is known for developing a lot of impressive
technology. But hidden in the kitchen of MIT’s Media
Lab is, perhaps, my favorite MIT invention: the FoodCam. Okay, so it may not look like much but it’s
actually quite brilliant. Let’s say you have some leftover food. You put it under the camera and you hit the
button. FoodCam posts a photo to Twitter, Slack, and
a mailing list. All with a simple message: Come and get it! It looks like a pretty good box of donuts. Yes. It looks yummy under FoodCam. It does. Getting the food can actually be pretty competitive. By the time we got here, just 30 seconds after
it was placed, the whole building had swarmed and all the
pizza was gone. There’s a mad rush of people that come from,
like, every entryway in here to get the pizza. So you got to kind of move pretty quickly. Yeah, it’s a game — it’s like the Hunger
Games. Where… Will and Jon invented the FoodCam all the
way back in 1999. This was before Facebook. Before Gmail. Before social media as we know it. The idea came from a building-wide leftovers
problem. And in some ways, this simple invention gets
at the big problem of food waste. I mean that’s sort of the serious part of
what you have done, really, right? There is no doubt that this completely helped
reduce food waste at the lab. Almost all of the catering people know that
if they have spare food from their event, they can just hit the button and people will
consume that food. And those are not even Media Lab events that
are now fueling the FoodCam. When we picture the stuff that’s hurting
our planet, what do we think of? We think of, like, smokestacks, cars, oil
spills. We don’t really think about all the food
we throw away. In the US, roughly 40% of the food we produce
never gets eaten. That’s over 365 million pounds of food each
day. While that’s happening, about one in eight
Americans still don’t have a steady supply of food
to their tables. And all of this wasted food is a huge contributor
to climate change. If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse
gases, just behind China and the United States. So it really is an enormous problem and one
of the easiest ways to address climate change. It takes a ton of resources to produce food. On top of that, you have all of the energy it takes to keep
it cold and transport it around the country. And when food decomposes, it isn’t just
stinky. It releases potent greenhouse gases. Basically, we’re trashing our planet to grow food that
no one eats.But here’s the thing: No one actually likes wasting food. It’s just something that we haven’t been
paying much attention to. Of all of the challenging problems out there,
reducing the amount of food we’re wasting is one of the easiest. In the US, consumers collectively make up
the largest portion of food waste. A family of four spends about $1,500 on food
that they never eat. Meat is less as a percentage of what we buy
but when you consider it in particular, as a greenhouse gas intensive product, meat
waste actually has the highest greenhouse gas impact. And you don’t have to be an expert to understand
why food is going to waste in our homes. We’re all busy and on the go. Sometimes I buy food without thinking, “Do I really need that?” There’s even been a little bit of research
to show that once something goes in the refrigerator it’s actually worth less
to us than before.   Researchers asked people how they would feel
if they got home from the grocery store and dropped a carton
of eggs. And then they asked, well if your eggs sat
in your refrigerator for six weeks and then you didn’t use them, how would you feel about
that? And people felt a lot less remorse. I think a lot of the waste in our society
does come down to choice and wanting to have the
option to eat something at any time, whether or not we use it. Part of the reason we over-buy food is that
we’ve got tons of space to store it in. Refrigerators have grown about 15% since the
1970s. One of the things we found in our research
is that people are uncomfortable with white space when it comes to food. So we love it in buildings, or in design, but when it comes to food, we do not want
to see empty space in our refrigerators, on our plates, and so I really believe that
in some subliminal way we’re just filling everything. And if we had smaller refrigerators, that
let us see everything that was in there, that in itself would lead to quite a bit less
waste in our homes. And it isn’t just our refrigerators that
have gotten bigger. The average dinner plate has grown by 36%
since 1960. When you have a big plate, you tend to put
a lot of food on it —  whether or not you can eat it all. This is something Jill Horst noticed at UC
Santa Barbara. You have a tray that’s 14-by-18 inches and
you feel you need to load it up with food. You would see students that had four glasses:
water, juice, soda, milk — and you’d go to the tray return and they would
still be full. In 2009, the dining halls stopped using trays. Students can take as much food as they want,
but there isn’t a tray to pile it onto. The food waste per person, per tray, reduced
by 50 percent. I mean so that was huge. Let’s say that the average student wastes
six ounces of food per meal. That may not seem like a lot — but UC Santa
Barbara serves 13,000 meals per day. So that’s nearly 5,000 pounds of wasted
food. It’s like throwing 350 Thanksgiving turkeys
into the garbage every single day. And when you take the trays away and it becomes
three ounces, that’s a significant impact to help with not only the food waste, but
food cost. So, it turns out that something very small
— like removing a tray or changing the size of a plate — can have this profound
impact on our behavior. And it doesn’t take much effort, because
the effect is subliminal. The other thing they’re paying attention
to at UC Santa Barbara is portion size. Each plate is portioned one portion for a
student. They can take as many portions as they like, but we are actually plating the right size,
the right amount that we should be eating. We’ve gotten used to these gigantic portion
sizes at restaurants. And in a subtle way, it encourages us to overeat
and throw away a lot of food. If you look around, there’s not a whole
lot of food waste on the plates because of the proper portioning. I mean that’s somebody’s meal. That’s all they have left. None of us are perfect. Wasting less food isn’t just going to happen
overnight. But just having it on our radar can really
help us waste a lot less.   And if we do have extra food, then let’s
at least try to get it to people who could use it. There is so much high-quality surplus that’s
wasted, that just needs to find the people that need
it the most. Komal is the founder of Copia, a startup that’s
trying to recover all of this perfectly good food. If you imagine the world’s largest football
stadium filled to its absolute brim that’s how much food goes wasted every single
day in America — and I’m not talking about last night’s pad
thai or this morning’s half-eaten pastries, but untouched, uneaten, perfectly edible food.   So we don’t need to purchase or make more
food. We just need to figure out how to get it to
the people who need it. MIT’s FoodCam is great at recovering food. But when you start scaling this up from one
building to an entire city or an entire country, it becomes much more difficult. Let’s say you’re a small company and have
200 sandwiches left over from an event. That’s a lot of food — but it takes time
and effort to figure out how and where to donate it. Most people really don’t want to deal with
all this. It shouldn’t be this hard to do a good thing. Like, how cool would it be if people who have
food could say, hey, we have food, and people who need food could say, hey we
need food, and we could connect these two people and
clear the marketplace? So Komal is trying to make food donation easy
and intuitive. If you have some food, you type your info
into the Copia app. A driver will then come pick up your food
and deliver it to shelters that need it. And during big events, like Super Bowl 50,
there’s a ton of extra food. The issue is that it has a short shelf life. Imagine four 16-foot refrigerated trucks filled
to their absolute brim — that’s how much food we recovered. We fed 23,000 people in two days. Nobody slept. And it’s not you know hot dogs and popcorn. It was lobster rolls and pulled pork sandwiches
and $300 cheeses. High-quality food. If we can get food that would otherwise be
wasted to people who need it, we’re not only fighting hunger, but we’re
actually slowing global warming. It really is a win-win. And Komal doesn’t want to solve hunger in
just California. She wants to solve world hunger — period. It’s not about optimism or pessimism. I think it’s just that we’re hell-bent on
making it happen. This isn’t going to be an overnight thing. It’s got to be policy change. It’s going to be other entrepreneurs. It’s going to be really big companies and
institutions also taking a stand and saying that you know what? We don’t tolerate perfectly great food being
wasted. Look, no one likes throwing out food. So we made a simple guide to help you waste
less. To find out more go to

100 thoughts on “Food waste is the world’s dumbest problem”

  1. Back in my old school not only did we have to finish our food but we also had to only get a smaller portion of food to prevent it (we could get seconds).

  2. If you throw away food, it's still there. It's just someone else eating it instead of a human being. In this universe nothing is wasted. But if you look at everything in the context of personal benefit, all that is not consumed by you is of course "wasted".

  3. in the USA there are laws on IF you can give away food in all states because of lawsuits (get a dog or chicken or pig) no more waste lol

  4. This video should have also touched upon the sell by, best by and use by dates which are manufactured made up dates by the food corps! Don’t follow them.

  5. More people should share this so more people get notice about what is happening around them
    Great that you show us this that we can make a better world together

  6. as asians, everytime my mother see any leftover in my plate, she will shout at me and told me to stop eating next time. so i must learn to take the perfect amount for me to eat

  7. what annoys me is the short shelf life of many foods and you forget or it's too much too eat in that short time, then it cannot be donated

  8. I can't concentrate on this video because I cannot stop thinking of how much food is been wasted to make it's thumbnail.

  9. In The Netherlands the government has programs like Copia in every city/town 🙂 it’s called “the foodbank” in Dutch.

    I hate wasting food. My freezer is very small. I have food leftovers in it. I can’t fit bread in it. So bread goes bad quickly. Maybe I should be eating what is in my fridge before I get new food for a new meal? Any other solutions?

  10. My Issue is that we cant buy exactly what we need or want. I am not a very healthy person but sometimes I want to try to get more greens into my diet by adding spinach to sandwiches (I hate lettuce & all other greens) but you have to buy a large bag of it. I rarely eat all of it which makes me feel bad & makes me not want to buy anymore. if it was not in packaging & I could put an amount I know I would eat in my own bag it would literally be zero waste. I feel bad enough throwing away a plastic bag, I dont wanna also dump my leafy waste in my garden!

  11. Food waste is horrible…
    Copia sounds like a great idea. But it's unfortunate the woman CEO's face was lightened with makeup during the interview.

  12. Or you can just take a picture from your phone, post it to your colleague or any groups around your place.

    Much more simpler.

  13. Publix Supermarkets (along with other markets) is a huge distributor of food waste. My husband worked for Publix for 15 yrs…and I remeber times going in the back with him to help throw gallons and gallons and gallons of milk because they were about to expire in 5 days! I rember also boxes of Cheez Its and cereal being thrown by the cases because it was also expiring in 3 days. It was absolutely mind boggling. And that was just one store 😟

  14. Watch cowspiracy.
    Convince gov to let everyone have an acre of free tax free land to grow a food forest on and live on.
    End farm subsidies. End tax
    breaks to farms exsept those who grow healthy vegan food for human consumption exsept no large mono crops.
    End mandatory school, ged and hsd requirements, age limits, minimum wage, and exsessive regs.
    People should be able to learn how to do a good job they want so they can afford a house and car before 18.
    For those who and whos parents can afford it, tax deductible chairty and or the about 180,000dollars spent on k thru 12 per student could pay for it and trash k thru 12 and some of that money could be used to promote more independence and healthy living.
    Watch earthlings the movie its free on YouTube

  15. you are lying, and i know it because they told me the free market was perfect and cannot produce any waste, it is the most efficient system ever devised by our masters, OBEY YOUR MASTERS!!!!

  16. I love what you are doing Komal, but don't try to solve wolrd's hunger, just USA's hunger, the world doesn't have a good experience when USA or US corporations try to help it

  17. 365.000 seems like a lot “wasted” per day. Nothing about food being grown to produce energy? Where are those numbers?

  18. I go to UCSB and I feel like the tray thing doesn’t make me get less food, it just makes me make a lot of trips back and forth from my table to get all the food i want 😂

  19. Restaurant is one of the major cause of food waste. I see plenty of meat and veggies go in the trash. It’s all about the habit of how we eat.

  20. In India.. We were disciplined to finish all the food in the plate since childhood.Thats respect for the food..and the efforts people put in for it to be served on your plate.
    Ancestors were wise people indeed.

  21. Olio” is the best app and probably the only one for food sharing, anyone can share! Volunteers would pick up from food business as well to distribute in their communities

  22. Respecting food is the biggest thing..if u value food as important as it should be,wastage would go less in a big margin

  23. the overproduction of food is also to do with keeping food prices down, if this is true why do in Europe and USA we have massive farming subsidies in the EU it cost about 55 billion euros that takes massive chunk of EU budget yet the do not stop it, it also affects the land with chemicals etc,

  24. Me and my family actually have composted our food waste and use it as our fertilizer for our fresh produce so I suggest to compost or use it as fertilizer to reduce the gas emissions and waste 😊👌

  25. In India we are taught from childhood to not throw or leave food . And if we do parents always say many people work hard for this amount of food and you get it with ease so don't waste it. Finish it.

  26. I don't know how many times Ive ordered food and told them to give me half of what they usually make because eI won't eat it. I can't order kids meals which are perfect for me because him not under 11 yrs old. Its like the food industry is designed to waste food.

  27. That's why I eat rice until the very last grain. Same thing for salad not a piece of vegetable goes into bin. No wasting. And one more thing shop groceries only for the needed items. 👍

  28. The problem in the US is that if you let people eat leftover food and they get ill, expect a lawsuit. It is safer for companies to toss than to risk it. I can remember taking leftover food from various events to Salvation Army and homeless shelters. Now I'm told "I'm sorry, we can't accept it. We don't know when, where, or how it was prepared so we can't take the chance of people getting sick."

  29. I always clean my plate, freeze my left overs and eat it when I get the time, and grow the stems of my veggies so I dont need to buy more later

  30. I think people are just worried about the energy that will be wasted if they don't feel their refrigerator because they think they don't utilize all the coldness in the refrigerator when in fact it's more efficient to not crammed it. The less the food inside the less the compressor works to cool the refrigerator.

  31. When you live in a third world country you'll immediately be taught the importance of food. You don't ever dare to waste what you're given.

  32. dang now i feel bad that im about to throw away a bunch of bananas that went bad before i had the chance to eat them

  33. I do agree that food that we buy should not be wasted but I think it’s important to note that we need to overproduce the food because if we have a sudden increase in demand or a disaster that effects supply then the excess is needed to fill the void.

  34. The problem with scaling up the model is quality control. All it needs is one item of food gone bad and one guy to eat it to bring the house of cards down. And there's no way they can check all that food for safety. Food waste problem needs to be solved at the root. It doesn't help a lot once that food is already produced and on the market.

  35. In nature, there's no such thing as waste. Every molecule of biological matter on earth eventually winds up as food for some living thing.

  36. We don’t need to save food. Have you scene how over weight Americans are getting? “Poor” people in America are often overweight. If we tried to ship to food to people on the other side of the ocean that don’t have it would cost too much or the food would go bad. At least fresh food. The problem is not there is not enough food. It’s that we can’t get food to the people that need it most. Food or control of food supply chains are offer used as weapons in warring tribes. If you don’t have food you are easily defeated.

  37. So we should all eat a partial plate that someone else has slobbered on, sneezed on and dribbled foreign material upon.  GENIUS  !!!

  38. Really simple family just make an app! Make a food camera app!! Anyone can download it and anyone can take their excess food to the front of their property take a picture with the app and everyone in their city will immediately know that there is a plate of perfectly edible food waiting for them at a specific address and time! Really simple…… if only I were a programmer!😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  39. Vegans using climate change to spread their agenda, this is why nothing will be solved CC is used for political opportunism.

  40. Vox is one of the best YouTube channels, with a lot of high quality videos, well produced and with incredible contents. Thanks…
    I would like to see one about micro plastics in nature…

  41. I worked in my university catering devision and I would always have to throw huge pans of food away, it hurt a lil every time. The app would be amazing to implement at a more universal context. Mostly since as a college student sometimes I didn’t have enough money to eat I would eat the leftovers from events but sometimes the leftovers were to much so it would be thrown away, n if other students knew that there was free food ik many college students would appreciate that.

  42. This gives me a great idea to put this into my school system. Thank you for giving me this idea and educational thinking

  43. Here are some tips to reduce food waste:
    -go grocery shopping on a full stomach. If you go being hungry you'll feel inclined to buy more food (which you probably don't need)
    -if you live with roommates, buy some things collectively (bread, ketchup, cereal) that you know are at risk of going bad if each buys their own
    -if you're gonna buy a food item you haven't tried before, buy only a little in case you don't like it
    -don't throw wasted food directly in the trash can, instead throw it in an airtight see-through container. This will help you be conscious about what you throw away
    -use small plates and small cups. You can always refill them but it will be hard to grab more food than you can finish.

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