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Upcycling food is part of successful waste management

Thursday 18 February 2021 11:02am

Andreas Story image
Andreas has spent the summer working alongside Foodstuffs Waste Minimisation Manager, Francesca, and upcycle business, Citizen.

Climate change got one Otago student thinking about how he could make his own impact on the world.

Second year Bachelor of Applied Science student Andreas Wijngaarden has spent the summer months working with Foodstuffs and food upcycle collective, Citizen.

“I used to work at New World, and I noticed their food waste challenges. Before I started my studies I reached out to Francesca, the Waste Minimisation Manager for Foodstuffs, to share my ideas. When I started my studies at Otago, she asked me if I’d be interested in applying for a summer internship.”

From there Andreas and Francesca have been working with Citizen to investigate how Kiwis think about upcycling food and how to better reach them.

Citizen is an organisation already upcycling food, which has created the perfect opportunity for Andreas to see first-hand how Kiwis respond to this type of waste management. Citizen Co-founder Donald Shepherd says that their first focus has been on our country’s most wasted food, bread.

“We started with craft beer made using surplus bread. The fermentable starches of the bread are used in the brewing process at Sawmill Brewery. At the end of each brew the leftover starch is used by Callaghan Innovation to create a spent-grain flour, which Wild Wheat turns into bread. So, we go from bread into beer into bread, a truly circular solution.”

“If you want to make a difference and learn things in this area, you need to get yourself out there, ask people if you can spend time learning from them, more often than not, they’ll be happy to help you out.”

Donald, Francesca and Andreas have collaborated on a research survey and as part of Andreas’ internship, he has been assisting in running tasting sessions. At these sessions, shoppers in local supermarkets try Citizen’s beer and fill in the survey. “Previously, there has been a few studies done by Foodstuffs on upcycling food,” Andreas says. “In this particular survey we’ve been trying to understand more about how or what the consumers would like to see in terms of communicating that a product is upcycled.”

The study took place in Wellington and while finishing off his report, Andreas has reflected on some ideas he has heard in the process.

“There have definitely been some interesting responses to hearing that the beer is made from un-sold bread, and people are surprised that it tastes like normal beer. Almost everyone who tried it was keen to share their thoughts. We had a lot of chats around what upcycling food means and what questions people might have.”

Andreas is now finalising his report from a busy summer and returning to Dunedin to complete his studies. He wants to visit Sweden to observe how they handle waste management and then help to implement some of those things here in New Zealand in the future.

“I think there is plenty to learn from other countries that are already making progress in areas we could further develop. I also think that if you want to make a difference and learn things in this area, you need to get yourself out there, ask people if you can spend time learning from them, more often than not, they’ll be happy to help you out.”