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UK: Growing crops in cities will put an end to food waste

Coronavirus showed how vulnerable our global food supply chains are, but growing closer to home could also solve our waste problem

By Ellen Macarthur
23 December 2020


In the current food system, when food flows into cities, organic waste is created in the form of discarded produce, by-products and sewage. This waste is full of nutrients that can be used to grow new food and create biomaterials, but in today’s system it is more likely to end up in landfill or go untreated. However, there are more viable – and greener – alternatives. In Italy, paper is already being made from pasta by-products, while orange peels, grape skins and excess milk are being turned into fabrics. In the UK, London has committed to ensuring that by 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill.

This shift will not only be driven by a need to address waste and pollution. As we look to recover from the economic shock of Covid-19, our analysis has shown there is an economic opportunity worth $700 billion (£538 billion) for cities to reduce edible food waste and use by-products. Less than two per cent of organic waste in cities is currently returned to the soil, yet the more organic matter that’s within soil, the more water it can hold and retain, making crops resilient to disturbances such as droughts and floods. This applies whether food is grown in the city, its peri-urban surroundings or on rural farmland.

Read the complete article here.