HELSINKI, Finland – "Happy hour" at the S-market store in the working class neighborhood Vallila is far from the aisles and is not exactly pleasant. No one is here for drinks or good time. They are looking for a hefty discount on a pork dish.
Or a chicken, or a salmon fillet, or any of a few hundred items that are hours from the midnight expiration date. Food that is almost unsold is sold in each of the S-market's 900 stores in Finland, with prices already reduced by 30 per cent cut to 60 per cent off exactly at. It's part of a two-year campaign to reduce food wastes that business leaders in this famously biblical country decided to call "happy hour" in the hope of pulling in regulars, like any decent bar.
Total cost after the fall: equals $ 4.63.
About one-third of food produced and packaged for consumption is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization . This is equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes a year, worth nearly $ 680 billion. The figures represent more than just a disastrous distribution of needs and wants, given that 10 percent of people in the world are chronically malnourished. All the superfluous foods, say scientists, contribute to climate change.
From 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are related to food lost during harvest and production or wasted by consumers, a recent report by the Government Panel on Climate Change found. Landfill with decaying food emits methane, a gas that is about 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. And to harvest and transport all the wasted food requires billions of acres of arable land, trillions of gallons of water and huge amounts of fossil fuel.
For consumers, cutting down food waste is one of the few personal habits that can help the planet. But for some reason, not many people worry about the carbon footprint, vegetables and steak they throw in the garbage.
"There has been a lot of focus on energy," said Paul Behrens, professor of energy and environmental change at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. "But climate change is as much a question of land and food as anything else."
Reducing waste is a challenge because selling as much food as possible is a tried, tested and ingrained part of everything you can eat in cultures. To persuade sellers to market and earn "food rescue", as it's known, is not so obvious.
"Consumers pay for the food, and who wants to reduce it?" Said Toine Timmermans, director of the United Against Food Waste Foundation, a nonprofit in the Netherlands composed of companies and research institutes. "Who benefits from reducing food waste?"
An increasing number of supermarkets, restaurants and start-ups – many based in Europe – are trying to answer that question. The United States is another matter.
"Food waste can be a unique American challenge because many people in this country equate quantity with a bargain," said Meredith Niles, assistant professor of food systems and politics at the University of Vermont. "Look at the number of restaurants advertising the large sizes."
Nine of the 10 US supermarket chains that were considered by the ideal center for biodiversity last year, received a C grade or lower on food waste problems. Only Walmart did better, largely for its efforts to standardize date labels and to educate employees and customers.
Some of the most promising work on food waste is apps that connect food sellers to food buyers. Think Tinder, except that one party in this connection is a person and the other is an aging bread.
Among the most popular is Too Good to Go, a company based in Copenhagen, with 13 million users and contracts with 25,000 restaurants and bakeries in 11 countries. Consumers pay about a third of the sticker price for merchandise, which goes mostly to the retailer, with a small percentage paid to the app.
In Denmark, food rescue has reached the scale and momentum of a cultural movement, one with its own intellectual godmother: Selina Juul, a graphic designer who immigrated from Russia at the age of 13.
"I came from a country where there was fear that we would not have food on the table tomorrow, where there was food shortages," she said in a telephone interview. “When we emigrated, I had never seen so much food. I was shocked. Then I was shocked again when I saw how much food people wasted. ”
In 2008, at the age of 28, she started a Facebook group called Stop Wasting Food. Within weeks she was interviewed on the radio. Shortly afterwards, she caught the attention of Anders Jensen, the purchasing director at REMA 1000, Denmark's largest supermarket chain.
"I was on a business trip to Scotland and read about Selina in a newspaper," said Mr., Minn. Jensen. "Around that time, we learned that every Dane threw out 63 pounds of food a year" – around 139 pounds – "and I sat at this airport thinking, she's right."
After the two met at a Copenhagen cafe, REMA 1000 eliminated large discounts in the store. As of 2008, there would be no more three ham at the price of two, or any variations on that theme.
"It exploded in the media because it was the first time a retailer said, & # 39; It's O.K. if we sell less," said Mr. Jensen.
REMA 1000 and Ms. Juul acknowledge that there is a limit to how much a company can do to reduce waste. Awareness was needed. So Juul has recruited famous Danes to join his cause.
She writes a book on cooking food scraps with Princess Marie, who worked in advertising and marketing before marrying into the Danish royal family. Celebrity chefs, like Rene Redzepi, have spread the word. Mette Frederiksen, the current prime minister, even made it a campaign problem this year.
In Finland, reducing food waste has not yet become a political issue, but it is a selling point for at least one restaurant. Each dish on the Loop menu, located at a former mental hospital in Helsinki, is made from over-the-counter ingredients donated by grocery stores and bakeries. Donations vary, so Loops cooks have no idea what to make before entering the restaurant's kitchen.
"It's like an episode of & # 39; Master Chef & # 39; every day," said Johanna Kohvakka, nonprofit founder of Waste to Taste, which runs the Loop. "But we try to make every right look great so people can share photos online and say, & # 39; This was about to be wasted. & # 39;"
Ms. Kohvakka says that Loop provides profits and can serve as a model for similar efforts. Managers at S-market in Finland make no such claims about happy hour. Mika Lyytikainen, vice president of the S market, explained that the program simply reduces the loss.
"When we sell at 60 percent off, we don't make money, but we make more than if the food was given to charity," he said. "On the other hand, it is now possible for anyone to buy very cheap food in our stores."
It is not uncommon to find groups of S-market buyers milling around with items to be discounted soon off the shelves and waiting for the clock to strike at 9am. "I did," Karkkainen said as he headed for the exit. with minced rib for pork.
Others, it seems, have not fully embraced the S-market anti-waste ethos. Harri Hartikainen, 71, shopped one night in Vallila and considered a 60 percent discount box of grilled chicken wings in Kansas City.
"I've never tried these before," he said, dropping them into the shopping cart. "But it's so cheap, if I don't like it, I can just throw it out."