Reflections from REFRESH food waste conference

The REFRESH (Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain) Food Waste 2017 conference took place between the 18th – 19th of May in Berlin Germany. Diverse actors across Europe and China shared their experiences and discussed food waste prevention, reduction, and potential re-use in order to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 - halving food waste per capita at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains. 

The opening day of the conference featured the announcement of the REFRESH Food Waste Solution Contest winners:

These winners deserve recognition and can inspire others organisations and entrepreneurs to find innovative ways to combat food waste. Other ideas presented by exhibitors at the Innovators’ Fair included:

HCWH Europe was also present, exhibiting their recent food waste work including two recent publications.


Breakout sessions were organised to look at different perspectives and approaches to food waste, including what is the role of policy in the measurement and monitoring of food waste. Other topics of discussion included: how to reduce environmental and economic waste management costs, how to best communicate about food waste, and how consumer behaviour can influence the levels of food waste. Every stage of the food chain was discussed, including how to maximise value from unavoidable food waste and packaging materials, such as food waste donation or food waste as animal feed.

To close the first day, a Disco Chop event was organised with REFRESH partner Feedback Global and The Real Junk Food Project Berlin - a perfect way to demonstrate that a more sustainable chain of food production and consumption is possible.

Returning on the second day, the REFRESH team collaborated with FoodWIN and the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, to bring food waste innovators and experts together in an Incubator Day. This was organised with the aim of developing solutions to food waste issues in the food chain (particularly at retail, hospitality, and food service sectors), to learn from one other, and to improve cooperation within the food chain. Also discussed was the role of regional, national, and European policies for food waste reduction and identifying the gaps that still need to be filled. 

Lunch was provided by Restlos Glücklich, and challenged the common-held perception that eating food “waste” is less than appetising. Restlos Glücklich, a small restaurant in Berlin-Neukölln, has direct contact with supermarkets and wholesalers and uses their “un-sellable” produce for the meals they prepare.

I still remember how the healthcare sector was rarely included in early dialogues of food waste prevention and reduction. I’m pleased to say it is now more commonplace to involve the healthcare sector in these discussions; different organisations, entrepreneurs, and healthcare institutions are acting as a model to other public sectors.

The LWL-Klinik Münster, a psychiatric specialist hospital in north Germany, prepares approximately 850 meals a day. In 2012 the hospital implemented various strategies to reduce food waste in collaboration with the iSuN - Institute for Sustainable Nutrition at Münster University of Applied Sciences. These strategies included the measurement of food produced and wasted, changing ordering and portioning plans, organising food waste contests within departments, and introducing feedback systems. Thanks to the involvement of the entire kitchen team, the purchasing department, and the waste and environmental management department - from approximately 78 tonnes in 2013, the amount of food waste decreased 66 tonnes in 2016. Nevertheless, the hospital continues their ambition in promoting different approaches to food. The next steps they want to introduce is to reduce the food waste generated by the buffet system for breakfast and dinner, and to work closely with regional suppliers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to avoid food waste and unnecessary packaging.

Image: WasteWatchers


Wastewatchers, an online tool created by Thomas Luttikhold, registers valuable information about food waste in hospitals, restaurants, business cafeterias, and hotels. This easy to use tool stimulates awareness through real time facts and figures; it’s success derives from it’s simplicity - you can easily see the popularity of meals, and compare with other institutions, without diminishing the quality of care and improvement to patients and employees’ health.

All workers in the healthcare sector see the huge potential to tackle food waste and consequently climate change; HCWH Europe believes that food waste should no longer be seen as simply waste, but considered a resource with great potential in many areas outside of food and healthcare sectors.

To achieve SDG 12.3 and to meet the European target of 44% food waste by 2030, we all need to be informed and committed to this goal. Further funding and investment in infrastructure and technologies, and establishment of partnerships are essential to this cause.

- Paola Hernández, Food Project Officer