Canadian food waste program wins international sustainability award

Canada’s first-ever pilot to support regional food waste diversion for businesses and institutions has earned international recognition this week, receiving special mention from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact’s biannual Global Forum.

Pioneered by the Circular Innovation Council, in partnership with Our Food Future, the first-of-its-kind initiative was piloted in Guelph and Wellington County, in Ontario, targeting the industrial, commercial and institutional sector – Canada’s largest generator of food waste.

Demonstrating circular innovation with global scalability, the program mimics the regional collection model of residential organics programs, enabling businesses to work together to reduce the cost of collection, redirect edible food and food waste from landfills and reduce GHG emissions.

Circular Innovation Council’s solution was selected out of 251 practices from 133 cities around the world—the largest number of submissions received by the Milan Pact Awards to date. The Milan Pact Awards promote actions on developing sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework, that minimize waste and conserve biodiversity while adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change.

The Awards also aim to recognize innovation and stimulate an exchange of best practices amongst Pact signatory cities, encouraging a global network of sustainable advancement.

“As the creator of this innovative Circular Food Recovery and Waste Diversion Pilot, we are honoured to receive such esteemed international recognition for,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of Circular Innovation Council.

“There’s no other program like this in the world, but it is something that can be done in any jurisdiction. We aim to trial this pilot in other regions and support its replication in their own communities, fostering circular innovation, fighting climate change and reducing food waste. and food across Canada.”

The results of this program are clear – after just 10 months, 318 tonnes of organic waste were diverted, and 16.1 tonnes of edible food (valued at $114,854) recovered and redistributed to nine local charities, resulting in greenhouse gas reductions of 409 tonnes CO2e within the region.

The eye-opening effects of this program have caught the attention of additional Canadian municipalities looking to be leaders in sustainability and food waste reduction in their own regions, with new programs being discussed in Alberta and Quebec.

Selected earlier this year as a finalist in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Food Waste Reduction Challenge: Business Models stream, the Pilot Program’s recognition from Milan Urban Food Policy Pact comes at a time when innovation in food waste reduction is more critical than ever.

Though results have been achieved to date at a local level, the benefits of reduced GHG emissions are felt globally as nations work together to fight climate change. The program also strengthens social capital through enhanced business awareness of food insecurity as well as connections to community agencies, all while reducing average disposal costs for those involved.