It’s an issue that’s estimated to cost Canada more than $21 billion per year—nevermind the environmental impacts. But how much thought have you really given to the problem of food waste and spoilage, and how it could be hampering our country’s effort to reduce emissions? Whenever wasted or spoiled food ends up buried in a landfill instead of decomposing while exposed to air, it generates methane—a potent greenhouse gas with 86 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. And it just so happens that Canada is one of the worst countries on the planet when it comes to wasted food. So what can be done about it?

On this episode of Disruptors, an RBC podcast, co-hosts John Stackhouse and Trinh Theresa Do wrap up their special, three-part series called “The Growing Challenge”, with an in-depth examination of how both food waste and spoilage represent a huge and often overlooked obstacle to our nation’s sustainability efforts. They’ll also discuss new technologies and tactics helping food producers to address the issue—as well as how we as consumers all need to change our attitudes when it comes to things like best before dates, portion sizes, and so-called “rescued food.”

In addition to Sonya Hoo, a familiar voice from earlier in the series, John and Theresa will also hear from Meeru Dhalwala, author, chef, and the co-owner of Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants in Vancouver; Randy Huffman, the Chief Food Safety and Sustainability Officer at Maple Leaf Foods; Kevin Groh, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Loblaw Companies Limited; as well as Jeremy Lang, the founder and Vice-President of Sustainability at Pela Earth, which makes a smart, countertop-based composting system called Lomi.


To learn more about Meeru Dhalwala you can visit her Wikipedia page or follow her on Instagram at @meerudhalwala. Maple Leaf Foods has much more information about its sustainability goals on its website. Loblaw Companies Limited has details on its efforts to reduce waste in both the textiles and food industries. Click here to learn more about the Lomi smart composter, and here for information about Pela’s compostable phone cases. For more about BCG’s work on food systems and food security—follow this link. And for details on The Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, please click here.

Speaker 1 [00:00:00] Hi. It’s John here.

Speaker 2 [00:00:02] And it’s Theresa.

Speaker 1 [00:00:03] Theresa? When I think back, way back to my childhood, there’s a saying I seem to remember hearing a lot, which was waste not want not. In fact, it seemed to be a daily message at the dinner table that scraps of food could be much better used elsewhere in the world if we kids didn’t appreciate them.

Speaker 2 [00:00:22] Yeah. And I mean, the numbers are shocking, John. According to the Boston Consulting Group, about one third of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year. And the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates everything that’s lost or wasted is enough to feed one and a quarter billion hungry people each year. But before we go any further, it’s worth clarifying some terms. Food loss is something that happens at harvest or soon. After all, food waste happens after the food reaches retailers or consumers. And so if we eliminated both food loss and waste, so many hungry people would be fed, which is especially important given how many people are facing food insecurity.

Speaker 1 [00:01:00] Plus, there’s a huge opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we can reduce these totals because food loss and waste create 12 megatons of emissions every year across Canada, landfills are literally filling up with food. Metro Vancouver, to take just one example, estimates that up to 30% of the garbage sent to landfills is organic waste.

Speaker 2 [00:01:21] Canada is among the worst countries on the planet when it comes to food waste. Not so fun. Fact Did you know that the average Canadian household throws out a staggering 79 kilograms per year? That’s compared to 59 kilos in the U.S., according to the UN’s Food Waste Index Report. But businesses have a part to play to. More than a quarter of all food waste comes from restaurants, while 13% comes from retailers.

Speaker 1 [00:01:46] It’s a massive issue throughout the food system, but there are some elegant solutions emerging from the farmer’s field to the grocery store to our plates. And each of these solutions has the potential to reduce loss and waste and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions throughout the system. And that’s what’s on our table today. This is Disruptors, an RBC podcast. I’m John Stackhouse.

Speaker 2 [00:02:17] And I am friend Theresa Do. Welcome to the final installment in a special three part series that we’re calling The Growing Challenge. And it we’re exploring how Canada can lead the world in clean, green agriculture using cutting edge technology, data systems and smart thinking to increase yields while reducing our environmental impact. Last week we talked about some of the technological solutions aimed at reducing emissions on Canada’s beef and dairy farms. But the issue of food waste and food loss is arguably an even bigger challenge to be solved. After all, the less we waste, the more resources we save, the fewer emissions we put into our atmosphere and the better able we are to feed a growing planet. In the first episode of this series, we introduced you to Sonja, who she’s a managing partner at Boston Consulting Group, who is investigating this vital question How can Canada produce more food while slashing GHG emissions in the process? As Sonja explains, the twin issues of food waste and food loss have to be central to that discussion. Food waste is something that actually happens all across the value chain, from everywhere, from production, all the way to the food that we waste at home. And that makes up about 10% or so of the agricultural emissions.

Speaker 1 [00:03:36] That’s a significant number. But I also wanted to know how much food, waste and loss happens at each stage of the value chain, from producer to retailer to consumer.

Speaker 2 [00:03:45] A good chunk of that comes from the on farm production. So what happens is farmers will actually grow food that is just not for whatever reason harvested or if it’s harvested, it may just not be brought to market. Then that happens for many reasons, including labor challenges. There may be fluctuations and variability in prices in the market, or there just may not be a market for the farmers to sell into. So it’s actually more cost effective for them to just leave the food there and there aren’t any penalties for doing so in terms of processing and manufacturing. Now mostly we’re pretty efficient at food processing, but there are byproducts of processing. So as we make food, things that come off that could potentially be leveraged because there’s still sort of food stock, but they may not be today. So that’s another source of waste. And then really the big chunk of waste. So, you know, close to 40% or so will be from sort of what we think of as restaurants, grocery stores, and then ultimately consumers at home. And that’s everything ranging from, you know, if you just think about the food that you’re leaving on your plate when you go out or when you’re at an event and there’s the buffet that set up, you know, not all of that food gets eaten. It gets thrown out to the food that just goes bad in our refrigerators because we bought too much or we didn’t get around to eating it. John This gets back to that saying you mentioned off the top waste not want not all that food we buy at the grocery store or in a restaurant that never gets eaten. And that 40% number that Sonia mentioned, it’s seared into the minds of many of those who work with food day in and day out. Like our next guest. Hi, Meeru Dalwala. I’m the co-owner and chef of Veggies Restaurant here in Vancouver as well. I am the founder of my Banbury Organic Baby Foods Meeru, along with her ex-husband Vikram, which runs one of Canada’s most acclaimed Indian restaurants. Mira is a child of immigrants, and her upbringing has shaped her entire attitude towards food waste. So Mom and Dad grew up in refugee camps in Old Delhi because of the war of partition, and so it was a little bit more direct for me growing up. We weren’t allowed to waste food. We could we could do a lot of other things. I remember I shoplifted once at the age of ten and I got in trouble for shoplifting. It was candy bars because we weren’t allowed to eat candy bars, but I got in less trouble for shoplifting. Then I would get in trouble for not finishing my dinner. This is super relatable as a child of refugees myself, not wanting to waste food is related to living with a scarcity mindset. You don’t waste food because you can’t afford to, and if you do, it means you’re depriving your family or your future self of nutrition, which risks your ability to survive another day. So I can very much understand why Mira takes the issue of food waste so seriously, as do many of the people she works with. We had a restaurant in Seattle called Shana Restaurant from December 2012, all the way through to 2015. And half of my kitchen staff I hired, they were refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the other half were new immigrants from India, all women on opening night. From my point of view, it was a fantastic evening. And then at around 12:30 a.m. I found my Ethiopian and Eritrean staff by the Compost and they were pulling out all this meat, all this meat going to the trash. And I said, It’s the compost. And they said, No, compost is trash. I don’t see any goats eating this right. We don’t see any cows eating this. They were tearfully indignant. Then I looked in it to. Well, there’s a lot of lamb popsicles in there. It was uneaten. I can’t even just jump in here. LAMB Popsicles are one of Mira and breadcrumbs, signature dishes, fresh cut racks of lamb with vinaigrette, cream sauce. That sounds so good. Honestly, finding those in a compost bean would seem like some kind of environmental food crime. And that’s when I looked at that and I thought, how must this look to people coming from? And we all know about the history of famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea. And I that’s when I thought, oh, this is just I’m so embarrassed at all levels. But at that point, I was more morally embarrassed for is now it’s not just about pointing your finger now. It’s just a logical climate change issue as well.

Speaker 1 [00:08:09] That’s a profound story, Teresa. And being confronted with our own waste by people who have seen famine up close. It’s a real wake up call.

Speaker 2 [00:08:17] Very true. So Muro says that she is very committed to reducing food waste and also to solving foods, climate challenges in terms of emissions. She thinks that part of the problem lies in the fact that consumers have trouble connecting the dots between food waste and climate change. It’s an out of sight, out of mind situation. Maybe it’s because we don’t see the visual of it getting wasted. Maybe because right now we’re not feeling the impact of food waste in terms of climate change. Maybe we just need it, for lack of a better phrase, thrown in our face. The obviousness of we’re thinking about how do we cut down our carbon footprint? But maybe food is so cheap that we’re not thinking about the fact that when you buy that steak or you’re buying that chicken in the store, a lot of fossil fuels have already gone into putting it there in the supermarket. The plastic wrap on the chicken is there, the raising of the chicken, the fertilizer, the feed, the pollution going into the river, transporting it. Then we’re purchasing that chicken. It sits in our full fridge and then we realize, Oh, the best before date was two days ago. Then we’re worried about getting food sick and then we actually toss the chicken.

Speaker 1 [00:09:31] So maybe there are some ways to address that in the grocery store. Things like labeling the detail, the carbon footprint of that package of chicken breasts to use mirrors. Example, if you gave an indication of how far that chicken has traveled from farmer to grocer, it might help build awareness right at the point of sale. But how does that awareness then translate into the restaurant environment? How do you reduce waste there when the order of the day is giving customers what they want? Here’s Meru again.

Speaker 2 [00:09:59] We restauranteurs. The smaller we are, the more efficient we tend to be with our money is tighter, right? The smaller you are, the less staff you have, the tighter you have to be. We’re pretty consistent at veggies, so that really helps the restaurant. When you are consistent, when you know, okay, we’re going to do approximately within $500 or within $1,000. We’re going to do this much business on a particular night. It’s a lot easier for us at the restaurant. We can choose what we want to purchase and get deliveries and things done. So on the back side of the kitchen, we have minimal, minimal food waste at the restaurants. Our food waste comes from the customer point of view. Now, that’s a hard one because in the past 15 years, maybe even 20 years, the U.S. and Canada, we’re competing with these big corporations, with all you can eat for 699. And people are expecting this bang for their buck when they go to the restaurant. And especially for us during tourist season in the summertime, there is this preconceived notion that Indian food is like an all you can eat buffet. That really resonates with me, John. Every time I travel, especially to the U.S., but really all across North America, I can’t help but notice how big portions have become.

Speaker 1 [00:11:14] For some reason, many consumers have come to value quantity over quality. When it comes to dining out, it’s something Miro thinks about a lot.

Speaker 2 [00:11:22] I have been working a lot in the past couple of years of trying to figure out how do I do it? That the customer is paying what the customer should pay for the food. But the food isn’t cheap enough subliminally to that customer that they have no problem leaving an entire lamb popsicle on their plate or asking for more naan and more rice and then just leaving that rice and not on the plate. We actually look at our compost every single night to determine, just to have a look at it and just say, okay, this is what customers today wasted.

Speaker 1 [00:11:54] Have you tried scolding your customers the way your parents did?

Speaker 2 [00:11:57] Well, Vikram is pretty good at that. Finish your plate. But customers don’t mind being teased about, you know, what they’re wearing. But morally, it’s hard to tease the customer.

Speaker 1 [00:12:07] So instead of teasing or scolding customers, Mira and Vikram try to educate them about food waste for some of their charity fundraising dinners, for example. Mira uses ingredients from a nonprofit in Vancouver, the Food Starch Foundation. It collects so-called rescue food from local grocery stores and.

Speaker 2 [00:12:23] At the very end when I announced that you just ate a meal prepared from rescued food and even rescued food. I don’t like that word because it has like some charitable component to it. You get very high quality food that grocery stores deemed not worthy to sell anymore because of this best before date or because it didn’t look the way a consumer wants it to look. And thankfully, I got it. I was able to host a fundraiser. You were able to experience what this food is. I mean, it’s great to see the look on their faces.

Speaker 1 [00:12:59] I’ll bet they’re a little surprised, but also impressed. Emmy RU hopes it causes people to really think about their habits.

Speaker 2 [00:13:05] We need to change our eating when we go to restaurants and we need to change our purchasing. When we go to the grocery stores, we need to become a little bit smarter and wiser about how we purchase food and our fears of getting sick. As Mira says, we need to change how we eat and go to restaurants, and we need to change how we shop when we go to grocery stores. But of course, there’s another critical player in this revolution, and that’s the producer who supplies those restaurants and stocks, those store shelves.

Speaker 3 [00:13:35] I’m Randy Huffman and the chief food safety and sustainability officer at Maple Leaf Foods.

Speaker 1 [00:13:40] Maple Leaf Foods is one of Canada’s largest and oldest food producers. Dating way back to 1927 and as a food producer. Maple Leaf knows full well that its activities have a significant carbon footprint. But Randy Huffman told us that Maple Leaf is also aiming to become, quote, the most sustainable protein company on earth. And a key ingredient in that plan is cutting its own food waste in half.

Speaker 3 [00:14:03] Back in about 20 1415, we began to set long term environmental footprint goals focused on how our operations impact our utility usage, such as natural gas, electricity and water. But we also recognized the importance of food loss back in 2014, and we set a goal to reduce our impact, to reduce the amount of food loss and waste from our manufacturing system by 50% by 2025. That was a goal, we said, based on a baseline in 2016. Since 2016, we’ve accomplished a 36% reduction in food loss and waste in our system. So we’re on track to meet our target of a 50% reduction by 2025. We’ve got work to do, but we feel confident we’ll hit that.

Speaker 1 [00:14:49] Of course, targets are great, but implementing those changes on a tight timeline is another matter. I asked Randy how he’s planning to achieve this audacious net zero goal, and specifically what role food waste plays in the effort.

Speaker 3 [00:15:03] The products that we produce have a very defined shelf life, and depending on the category, it can be from, you know, a week or two of salable shelf life to several months. But in all cases there’s an end to the life of that product. So probably the most meaningful approaches that we can take to ensure that the product maintains its quality and maintains its quality characteristics and consumer acceptability throughout the shelf life have to do with improving our hygienic conditions in our facilities. So improving the microbiological status of foods that we produce. And we’ve made dramatic strides in that. Second, we packaging the technologies and the ways that we packaged foods today compared to five, ten, 20 years ago, is is dramatically improved. And so packaging can play a role in improving the quality of the product through the consumer’s use of that product.

Speaker 2 [00:15:59] Essentially, he’s saying that quality foods, cleaner facilities and better packaging make food last longer. That all checks out because the longer food lasts, the less likely it is to get thrown out. But there must be some waste that occurs in other areas of Maple Leafs production process, right?

Speaker 1 [00:16:15] There is. That’s why it’s often called shrinkage in the retail world. When something falls off a conveyor belt and onto the floor, for instance, it gets deemed unfit for human consumption. It has to be thrown out. But as Randy says, through regular food and waste audits at its plants, Maple Leaf has been able to tighten its production processes and reduce some of that shrinkage.

Speaker 3 [00:16:35] Those audits continue every year, and they identify best practices or engineering changes that we can make to our equipment that reduce the amount of loss that occurs in the system that Maple Leaf Foods were big believers in. You manage what you measure. That that concept and principle helps us strive for improvements. One example that comes to mind is very simple mechanical approaches to preventing product from falling off of a conveyor. Let’s say once we started measuring this, it became more important to our teams. And then we began to address, well, how can we create that guarding on that conveyor to be more effective and not have that inch gap where food can fall through?

Speaker 2 [00:17:21] One thing I thought was interesting in our conversation with Randy was how he highlighted generational changes in the reasons why food gets wasted. He says, For one thing, we’re much more conscientious these days about spoilage.

Speaker 3 [00:17:33] In the past, food spoilage was a much larger contributor to waste, and my parents grew up in the Depression era. My dad on a dairy farm. And now when it comes to assessing whether or not deli meat is safe to consume, my mom, she would say, never eat slippery me how we think about freshness and shelf life and quality of food products today. I know many consumers are driven by what’s on the label, the use by date. In fact, our food systems have become so efficient at producing food that it has a long shelf life and it has technology over the course of history. Recent history has led to dramatic improvements in the life of the foods that we consume. Yet we still have a major problem.

Speaker 1 [00:18:17] It’s an interesting observation, Teresa. In the past, food got wasted due to things like poor refrigeration or production processes. But back then, consumers valued food, especially during economic crises like the Great Depression, when there was so much scarcity. Canadians waste more than 50 million tons of food. Every year. This suggests that the source of the problem lies at least partly in the attitudes of consumers.

Speaker 3 [00:18:40] I think prior generations, our parents generations were much more cognizant of the value of food and were less tolerant of approach we have today where, you know, there’s just not as much appreciation for the value of food and what goes into getting it to a consumer’s home. I think back in those days, people were much more aware of that and reducing food loss in the home.

Speaker 2 [00:19:03] It’s true, although I do have to wonder about the impact inflation is having. Food may be relatively cheap compared to historical highs, but it’s getting more expensive by the day. Data released by Statistics Canada this fall suggests the price of food purchased from stores is now rising at its fastest pace since 1981, up more than 11% year over year. You have to think that maybe those increases will force consumers to be smarter about what they buy and don’t buy. And to that point, John, who better to ask than somebody from Canada’s top grocery chain? Stick around for that conversation and more right after this short break. You’re listening to Disruptors an RBC podcast. I’m Theresa Do. I’d like to share with you our latest Proof Point report from RBC Economics and thought leadership that dives into Canada’s provincial finances. All provinces from coast to coast have recently recorded surprisingly high revenues, thanks in part to elevated commodity prices and soaring inflation. But how long will this revenue windfall last? We predict that the looming economic downturn and higher interest rates will soon tip the scale for provincial governments. To learn more, visit RBC E-commerce Thought Leadership. Welcome back to the third and final episode in our special series on the future of Canadian Agriculture, The Growing Challenge. Today, we’re looking at the issue of food waste from several different perspectives, from the role played by consumers to producers to restaurateurs and retailers. We just heard from Randy Huffman of Maple Leaf Foods, who told us about how Canada’s leading food producer is reducing waste and loss throughout its production system, thanks to data driven decision making and cutting edge technology. But remember that stat Sonja, who from BCG shared with us that 40% of waste comes from a further down the food chain from restaurants, grocery stores and ultimately consumers at home. While this means that grocery stores in particular have a vital role to play in helping to move the needle.

Speaker 3 [00:21:12] My name is Kevin Groh. I head up an area called Corporate Affairs for Loblaw Companies Ltd.. And Corporate Affairs is really the company’s relationship and communication with stakeholders right across the spectrum. So from the people we work with, to the folks in our stores, to suppliers, governments, communities, and that’s an increasingly tightly connected activity to the things we’re doing around the environment, fighting climate change and also priorities around advancing social equity.

Speaker 1 [00:21:43] Kevin says grocery stores are in a unique position to gauge changing consumer choices about climate change and sustainability. Everything from how we shop, whether it’s in-store or online to what we buy organic vegan, gluten free meat or dairy to how those items are sourced are all part of the food shopping equation. As the Loblaw Group of companies moves to become a net zero operation. Kevin says they’re looking at the many ways they can reduce waste in stores and throughout the supply chain.

Speaker 3 [00:22:12] As we look at our company purpose. We talk about helping Canadians live life well. And it’s really evident how you might do that if you’re Loblaw and you operate the largest chain of both corporately owned and independent grocery stores across Canada and also the Shoppers Drug Mart chain. So we came up with five crisp commitments. One is to fight climate change and the other is to advance social equity. And beneath those are really specific goals and activities around. On the climate side, bringing our carbon footprint to zero, getting to net zero greenhouse gas emissions position and then food waste are. Our goal is really simple, which is we want to send zero food waste to landfill by 2030 and all of those things we believe link back to helping Canadians live life well. The interesting thing is many of them intersect. So if you look at carbon, for instance, we want to have a net zero carbon footprint within. That is certainly going to be consideration of food waste and the negative impact that food waste going to landfill has on the environment. Similarly, on some of the commitments we’ve made around social interests, namely the health and wellness of families, there is a very direct connection between food waste and that category of social equity, which is think it’s morally offensive that businesses or people are throwing out food that can be otherwise consumed, particularly when we have levels of food insecurity like we do in Canada.

Speaker 2 [00:23:41] That last point. Food insecurity is a really important one, John. When we talked with Sonja from BCG, she told us a shocking fact. Nearly 16% of households in Canada were food insecure in 2021. That means that nearly one in six Canadians doesn’t have access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their daily needs. And the soaring cost of food isn’t helping. But Kevin says a food waste for grocers is also a sign of a business that’s not running particularly well.

Speaker 3 [00:24:12] I guess if you look at food waste, fundamentally, you could almost say that that the existence of food waste is a business failure for a grocer. So if you talk to ten grocers about the idea of food waste, most of them will start with the statement, something like, you know, we’re in the business of selling food, not throwing it out. Many years ago, we met internally and actually met with others in the industry to wrestle the challenge of food waste and the fact that, you know, it’s not only morally objectionable, but from a business perspective, the less food waste we create, the better our business is running. And in those conversations, we took a baseline of our food waste from 2016 and said that we would cut it in half by 2025. And we came out of the gates really, really strong. And within a matter of a couple of years, I think we had cut our food waste by about 75% in our corporate stores. Those are the ones we effectively own and operate that aren’t independently run. And it was a really great achievement. And it it sort of gave us the ambition of saying, you know what, we’re going to up the goal and we’re going to say by 2030, we will be sending no food waste to landfill.

Speaker 1 [00:25:19] And that’s where innovation comes into play. Loblaw has partnered with a wide variety of startups delivering tech solutions. To the food waste challenge and to research. There are innovations that provide benefits to the environment and substantial savings to consumers.

Speaker 3 [00:25:33] One of the innovations we’ve been looking at and have actually tested with great success is Flash Foods, and that’s an app based program that actually gives people access to food in our store at discounts as great as 50%. And the selection of those items really has to do with an algorithm that assesses whether we have ordered too much of something and the likelihood that that product will sell by its best before date. And as items sort of approach their best before date, but are still very safe and healthy to eat, they’re made available at deep discounts. And we found that it’s an interesting microcosm of the bigger challenge, which is we don’t want to create food waste. Ideally, the things on our shelves we’d like to sell and not throw away. And people are very inspired by discounts.

Speaker 2 [00:26:22] I get that. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate a good deal? Right.

Speaker 3 [00:26:26] And I think when you look at the issues behind food waste, whether it’s the negative business implication of throwing out food or the negative social implication of throwing out food, flush foods has been a bit of a sweet spot solution that checks a lot of those boxes.

Speaker 1 [00:26:42] Flashfood was introduced in more than 500 Loblaw stores, resulting in the elimination of more than 5 million kilos of potential food waste in 2020. So some pretty significant savings there, but the benefits are also being seen up and down Loblaws supply chain.

Speaker 2 [00:26:58] Kevin told us the company is working with growers to help market imperfect produce to consumers. You’ll remember hearing about that concept of rescued food from Marion’s Alala so it’s a similar idea at Loblaw. The company is taking fruits and veggies that might not fetch a full price and giving them a new lease on life.

Speaker 3 [00:27:16] We’ve actually packaged it up to say, Yeah, this potato looks a little strange, but it’s perfectly edible and healthy and we’ve packaged that under the no name naturally imperfect line. So there’s a there’s an effort there to just think slightly differently, both at the at the brand level, but also at the consumer level to capture what otherwise might become waste or in another part of the country. We’ve been partnering with a group called Loop Resources to literally collect our food waste and take it and turn it into animal feed for local farms. So there are there are ways to address the challenge and where food waste is inevitable, we’re working to make sure that it’s not inevitably the landfill. The other areas that we’ve worked on include Zoo Share, which is a partnership with the Toronto Zoo to take our food waste and their anim on manure, combine it into a biogas that is renewable energy fed directly into the grid.

Speaker 1 [00:28:11] Theresa We’re hearing this again and again about biogas and the opportunities throughout the food system to turn waste into energy.

Speaker 2 [00:28:19] It really gets back to that idea of a circular economy, John, where surplus food or waste from farms, grocers and wholesalers is finding new purpose while helping to reduce harmful emissions. And that commitment to a circular economy is something that consumers can also tackle in their own homes. You don’t have to wait for your favorite retailer or restaurant to take that action, as our next guest proves.

Speaker 3 [00:28:41] Hi, I’m Jeremy Lang. I’m the founder of Pila and we are working on creating a waste free future. So we do it by creating everyday products or everyday waste, and our goal is to eliminate £10 billion of waste. And we started with plastic waste and now we’re working on food waste to help keep food waste out of the landfill and get it back to the soil where it belongs.

Speaker 2 [00:29:00] Sheila produces a smart countertop, composter called Lomi. It holds about four liters of waste and takes between three and 15 hours to break it down, depending on the type of material that’s compared to the weeks or months it takes. Conventional composter. Jeremy says the need for his product was obvious because our landfills just aren’t meant to handle the millions of tons of organic waste they get every year.

Speaker 3 [00:29:23] When plants and animals die, they’re supposed to go back to the earth. When we send them to a landfill, they biodegrade anaerobic with no air and they create methane, which is way worse than CO2. Food waste rotting in landfill creates roughly seven or 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions. So it’s a big problem to solve. So anything that we can do to help nature get that food waste, keep it out of the landfill and put it back into the soil so it helps to create healthy topsoil, which helps to grow healthy plants. And it’s like nature’s fertilizer, the end product. You can sprinkle in your garden and you can sprinkle on your lawn. You can avoid the compost facility altogether and go directly into the soil. We’re saving emissions by preventing that greenhouse gas emission, by preventing and are avoiding the landfill, avoiding that food waste from rotting landfill, and by creating healthy topsoil, which helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Speaker 1 [00:30:14] It sounds like a great consumer oriented innovation. Theresa And according to Jeremy, more than 100,000 households are now using Lumi to reduce their food waste.

Speaker 2 [00:30:23] That’s quite impressive. John, I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of this series. We’ve covered so much ground, and yet there’s still so much more to say. When I think about that big number that more than a third of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year, it really strikes a chord with me. Reducing waste seems like low hanging fruit, to use another food pun in our battle to get more food into the hands of those who need it and to keep our greenhouse gas emissions in check.

Speaker 1 [00:30:54] But before we wrap up, Teresa, I’d love to hear your thoughts on everything we’ve learned in the series.

Speaker 2 [00:30:58] There’s a lot to digest here, John, but what stands out to me the most is how incredibly high tech agriculture is, which of course, is evidence everybody working in the space and not that much to those outside of it, like I was until I started doing research on it. And we were only able to touch a little bit on this in a previous episode. But the future of food is unreal. Lab grown meats, cheeses, even chocolate one day could be available at a restaurant or bodega near you. Not to mention the vertical farms that are already offering fresher local microgreens at the grocery store. It makes me feel like we can really transform how we produce and consume food to be way more climate conscious and meaningfully reduce our emissions. What about you?

Speaker 1 [00:31:43] I keep thinking about change, and if we’re going to tackle climate change, we all have to think about how to change the way we produce food, the way we transport food, the way we consume food, and how we can better preserve food. Fortunately, there are technologies emerging in all sorts of fascinating ways. I think about how the past decade of innovation or a couple of decades really has been rooted in software and how much innovation in the decade ahead is going to be based on hardware, especially in the ag and food sector, where we’re going to need new machines, tools, devices to transform and change all that we do with food. And that’s what Canadians for generations have been great at. So for Canada, it’s game on.

Speaker 2 [00:32:28] And just to cap off with the focus of today’s episode, I think about food waste or rather not wasting food a lot in my daily life. It’s fascinating to me that food waste is both one of the easiest aspects of emissions to address because it’s directly under our control and also one of the hardest, because it’s about changing our behavior and our attitudes, which are very sticky.

Speaker 1 [00:32:49] Absolutely. We love on this podcast to talk about technology, but technology doesn’t matter if we don’t think a lot harder about all of our own behaviors.

Speaker 2 [00:32:58] So we’d like to offer a huge thanks to all our guests for sharing their insights with us. We hope you’ve enjoyed listening to the series as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. And if you’d like to revisit some of our past episodes or you just want to keep the conversation going, visit RBC dot com slash thought leadership. Until next time. I’m Theresa Do.

Speaker 1 [00:33:18] And I’m John Stackhouse. This is Disruptors, an RBC podcast. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 2 [00:33:27] Disruptors, an RBC podcast is created by the RBC Thought Leadership Group and does not constitute a recommendation for any organization, product or service. It’s produced and recorded by Jar Audio. For more disruptors content, like or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and visit rbc dot com, slash disruptors.


Jennifer Marron produces “Disruptors, an RBC podcast”. Prior to joining RBC, Jennifer spent five years as Community Manager at MaRS Discovery District and cultivated a large network of industry leaders, entrepreneurs and partners to support the Canadian startup ecosystem. Her writing has appeared in The National Post, Financial Post, Techvibes, IT Business, CWTA Magazine and Procter & Gamble’s magazine, Rouge. Follow her on Twitter @J_Marron.

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