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The World Wastes Tons of Food. A Grocery ‘Happy Hour’ Is One Answer.

HELSINKI, Finland — “Happy hour” at the S-market store in the working-class neighborhood of Vallila happens far from the liquor aisles and isn’t exactly convivial. Nobody is here for drinks or a good time. They’re looking for a steep discount on a slab of pork.

Or a chicken, or a salmon fillet, or any of a few hundred items that are hours from their midnight expiration date. Food that is nearly unsellable goes on sale at every one of S-market’s 900 stores in Finland, with prices that are already reduced by 30 percent slashed to 60 percent off at exactly 9 p.m. It’s part of a two-year campaign to reduce food waste that company executives in this famously bibulous country decided to call “happy hour” in the hopes of drawing in regulars, like any decent bar.

“I’ve gotten quite hooked on this,” said Kasimir Karkkainen, 27, who works in a hardware store, as he browsed the meat section in the Vallila S-market. It was 9:15 and he had grabbed a container of pork mini-ribs and two pounds of shrink-wrapped pork tenderloin.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160177314_3d2b8a6f-c181-45f0-a3fd-d3ed5602cfce-articleLarge The World Wastes Tons of Food. A Grocery ‘Happy Hour’ Is One Answer. Supermarkets and Grocery Stores Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Greenhouse Gas Emissions Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Food Finland Europe Discount Selling Denmark

Discounted food items on the shelves at the S-market in Vallila. Food whose price has already been cut 30 percent is reduced to 60 percent off at 9 p.m., three hours before its midnight expiration date.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

Total cost after the price drop: the equivalent of $4.63.

About one-third of the food produced and packaged for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equals 1.3 billion tons a year, worth nearly $680 billion. The figures represent more than just a disastrous misallocation of need and want, given that 10 percent of people in the world are chronically undernourished. All that excess food, scientists say, contributes to climate change.

From 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are related to food lost during harvest and production or wasted by consumers, a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found. Landfills of rotting food emit methane, a gas that is roughly 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. And to harvest and transport all that wasted food requires billions of acres of arable land, trillions of gallons of water and vast amounts of fossil fuels.

For consumers, cutting back on food waste is one of the few personal habits that can help the planet. But for some reason, a lot of people who fret about their carbon footprint aren’t sweating the vegetables and rump steak they toss into the garbage.

A price discount table and discount stickers that are used before almost-expired food’s price is cut 60 percent.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

“There’s been a lot of focus on energy,” said Paul Behrens, a professor in energy and environmental change at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. “But climate change is as much a land issue and a food issue as anything else.”

Reducing waste is a challenge because selling as much food as possible is a tried, tested and ingrained part of all-you-can-eat cultures. Persuading merchants to promote and profit from “food rescue,” as it is known, is not so obvious.

“Consumers are paying for the food, and who wants to reduce that?” said Toine Timmermans, director of the United Against Food Waste Foundation, a nonprofit in the Netherlands composed of companies and research institutes. “Who profits from reducing food waste?”

A growing number of supermarkets, restaurants and start-ups — many based in Europe — are trying to answer that question. The United States is another matter.

“Food waste might be a uniquely American challenge because many people in this country equate quantity with a bargain,” said Meredith Niles an assistant professor in food systems and policy at the University of Vermont. “Look at the number of restaurants that advertise their supersized portions.”

Nine of the 10 United States supermarket chains that were assessed by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity last year were given a C grade or lower on food-waste issues. Only Walmart did better, largely for its efforts to standardize date labels and to educate staffers and customers.

Some of the most promising food waste efforts are apps that connect food sellers to food buyers. Think Tinder, except one party in this hookup is a person and the other is an aging loaf of bread.

Among the most popular is Too Good to Go, a company based in Copenhagen, with 13 million users and contracts with 25,000 restaurants and bakeries in 11 countries. Consumers pay about one-third of the sticker price for items, most of which goes to the retailer, with a small percentage paid to the app.

In Denmark, food rescue has attained the scale and momentum of a cultural movement, one with its own intellectual godmother: Selina Juul, a graphic designer who immigrated from Russia at the age of 13.

A variety of marked-down food items are on display at the S-market in Vallila.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

“I came from a country where there was a fear that we wouldn’t have food on the table tomorrow, where there were food shortages,” she said in a phone interview. “When we emigrated, I had never seen so much food. I was shocked. Then I was shocked again when I saw how much food people wasted.”

In 2008, at the age of 28, she started a Facebook group called Stop Wasting Food. Within weeks, she was being interviewed on the radio. Soon after that, she came to the attention of Anders Jensen, the buying director at REMA 1000, the largest supermarket chain in Denmark.

“I was on a business trip to Scotland and I read about Selina in a newspaper,” Mr. Jensen recalls. “Around that time, we learned that every Dane was throwing out 63 kilos of food per year” — about 139 pounds — “and I was sitting in this airport thinking, she’s right.”

After the two met in a Copenhagen cafe, REMA 1000 eliminated in-store bulk discounts. As of 2008, there would be no more three hams for the price of two, or any variations on that theme.

“It exploded in the media because it was the first time a retailer said, ‘It’s O.K. if we sell less,’” Mr. Jensen said.

REMA 1000 and Ms. Juul recognize that there is a limit to how much one company can do to reduce waste. Consciousness raising was necessary. So Ms. Juul has enlisted famous Danes to join her cause.

She’s co-writing a book on cooking with leftovers with Princess Marie, who worked in advertising and marketing before marrying into the Danish royal family. Celebrity chefs, like Rene Redzepi, have spread the word. Mette Frederiksen, the current prime minister, even made it a campaign issue this year.

In Finland, reducing food waste has yet to become a political issue, but it is a selling point for at least one restaurant. Every dish on the menu of Loop, which is housed in a former mental hospital in Helsinki, is made from past-due ingredients donated by grocery stores and bakeries. Donations vary, so Loop’s chefs have no idea what they’ll be making until they walk into the restaurant’s kitchen.

The S-market in Vallila. Scientists say all excess food contributes to climate change.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

“It’s like an episode of ‘Master Chef’ every day,” said Johanna Kohvakka, founder of the nonprofit From Waste to Taste, which operates Loop. “But we try to make every dish look great so that people can share images online and say, ‘This was about to be wasted.’”

Ms. Kohvakka says Loop turns a profit and could serve as a model for similar ventures. Executives at S-market in Finland make no such claims about their happy hour. Mika Lyytikainen, an S-market vice president, explained that the program simply reduces its losses.

“When we sell at 60 percent off, we don’t earn any money, but we earn more than if the food was given to charity,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s now possible for every Finn to buy very cheap food in our stores.”

It’s not unusual to find groups of S-market shoppers milling around with soon-to-be-discounted items from the shelves and waiting for the clock to strike at 9. “I’ve done that,” Mr. Karkkainen said, as he headed for the exits with his pork mini ribs.

Other Finns, it seems, haven’t fully embraced S-market’s anti-waste ethos. Harri Hartikainen, 71, was shopping one evening in Vallila and considered a 60 percent off box of Kansas City-style grilled chicken wings.

“I’ve never tried these before,” he said, dropping them into his shopping basket. “But it’s so cheap, if I don’t like it, I can just throw it out.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Alan Mak: Conservatism 4.0 – We must ensure that no-one is left behind by the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founding Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Stanley Baldwin said the Conservative Party stood for “real England” – a Party defined by voluntary organisations and Christian patriotism, little platoons and big national causes.

His Conservative Party of the 1920s faced an upstart opposition in a Labour Party that had usurped the Liberals to become the second party of British politics. Outlining the growing threat from Labour, Baldwin described them as being for a nation of class divisions and over-mighty trade unions.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has come full circle and is once again challenging the success and legitimacy of our free-market economy.

A century on from Baldwin, and despite being the natural party of government, our Party has often struggled to break out from its vote base of shire counties and market towns. It’s over 30 years since we won a majority of over 21 at a general election.

But there are signs of change. Our electoral success in recent years has been driven by securing more votes in Labour’s industrial heartlands. Dudley, Mansfield, Copeland and Teesside have all elected Conservatives in recent years, whilst the West Midlands and Tees Valley have elected Conservative Mayors on a region-wide basis.

This Conservative momentum in areas once dominated by trade unions and the Old Left shows that our message of hope, personal freedom and low taxation can re-define our path to a majority.

Yet our progress in these Labour heartlands is not concrete and shouldn’t be taken for granted. A pro-Leave electorate that has trusted another party for so long will be looking to the Conservatives to not only deliver Brexit, but ensure they are not left behind by the next big technological revolution either. As I said in yesterday’s article, this commitment must be a central tenant of Conservatism 4.0 – Conservative ideology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR].

The last time our country went through a technological revolution we had a strong leader with a firm ideology. The computing revolution of the 1980s powered Britain to economic success – and political success for Thatcherism. Through deregulation and an unwavering belief in the free market, the City of London prospered from the Big Bang, and our economy was transformed into a services-based powerhouse. From the stuttering, strike-crippled, state-dominated closed market that Thatcher inherited, the foundations were laid for rapid economic growth and the business-friendly, pro-innovation environment we enjoy today.

Our next Leader will also find themselves at an inflection point. They will have to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as artificial intelligence, big data and automation change our economy and society beyond recognition – and ensure that every community and region benefits from the wealth that it creates. Whilst Margaret Thatcher’s transformation of Britain’s economy for the better is undeniable, there are mining and industrial communities who felt they were left behind as other parts of the country raced ahead. To win a majority at future elections, today’s Conservatives need to attract working class and northern votes, so we cannot allow the positive impact of the 4IR to be absent from any region or for its benefits to be inaccessible to any social group.

The 4IR will radically change how we work, regardless of sector or industry. Instead of dockers and miners being at risk of automation, in the near future it will be call centre operators, lorry drivers and factory workers. With a path to electoral victory that increasingly runs through industrial towns, every factory closure or job lost to robots without alternatives emerging, will make a majority harder to achieve for our next leader.

That’s the reason why, whilst we still have an opportunity to shape the 4IR, our policies must be focussed on creating an Opportunity Society centred around social mobility powered by lifelong learning, high-quality education and skills training for everyone at every stage of their lives. Our Opportunity Society must be more than just a short-term policy objective. It has to be an integral part of the future of capitalism and a key part of Conservatism 4.0.

As robots slowly replace human workers, many on the radical-left are arguing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a minimum wage paid by the Government to every citizen regardless of their productive capacity. Every single country that has trialled UBI – from Kenya to Finland – has found it expensive and ineffective. Research by the International Labour Office has estimated that average costs would be equivalent to 20-30 per cent of GDP in most countries. In Britain, this would be more than double the annual budget of the NHS, yet John McDonell says a Corbyn-led Labour Govnement would trial it. These are just two of the reasons why we Conservatives should reject UBI as the solution to growing automation in the 4IR.

The truth is work has always paid, and work for humans will always exist. Work drives our economy, multiplies and makes the world richer. It takes people out of poverty and gives them purpose, and this will continue to be the case in the 4IR. In fact, many more new jobs are likely to be created than are lost to robots because the technology of the 4IR will drive economic growth, which in turn will create new and more interesting jobs, especially in new tech sectors such as advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, precision medicines and AI-powered creative industries.

Not enough is made of our job creation miracle since 2010, which has seen our economy put on three million new jobs. As we enjoy the lowest unemployment rates since the 1970s, we need to re-emphasise the value of work and the benefits to be derived from a good job. A UBI would be defeatist, signifying that humans had ceased to be useful in a world of machines, and be the antithesis of social mobility – there would be no need to work hard to move upwards on the income and living standards scale if we are all paid to stay at the same level. A UBI would also stall our economy through either crippling debt on the public purse or new taxes imposed on innovation. Similarly, Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed Robot Tax would simply mean a left behind country – a nation that fails to attract foreign investment and which becomes known for its anti-innovation approach to technology.

Instead, true devolution must be at the heart of delivering an Opportunity Society and making sure no community or individual is left behind. Our next Prime Minister must invest in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine so regional economic growth is put in the hands of regional leaders. The benefits of the 4IR, from new start-ups to overseas investment, must be enjoyed beyond the “Golden Triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge. As Juergen Maier who led the Government’s Made Smarter Review, argued, it’s about creating an “innovation climate” in regions such as the North.

We cannot expect the heavy industries of the past to return, but instead our focus should be on ensuring the new technologies of the future are exploited in every area of the country to create new jobs and rising skills levels in every community. The Liverpool City Region understand this, and have already taken the initiative. They have launched LCR 4.0, an ambitious plan to support manufacturing and advanced engineering organisations in the region by funding practical support to transform businesses through digital innovation. By helping traditional manufacturers upgrade their technology, they enable firms to stay in business and keep their workers employed by becoming more productive. Conservatism 4.0 should support more initiatives like this.

Moving towards a system of local business rates retention will also encourage further investment in skills and business support from local authorities as they reap the rewards of encouraging local growth. There should also be more scope for local taxation and decentralisation as a central tenet of Conservatism 4.0 to empower local areas to evaluate their workforces and set-up true long-term strategies for delivering local economic growth, building on the work of existing Local Enterprise Partnerships and new Local Industrial Strategies.

Conservatism has always evolved and must do so again as we enter a new technological age by putting social mobility and reginal devolution centre stage. They are the two key building blocks to ensuring that every community and region can benefit from technology-driven economic growth. While Thatcherism delivered for the Third Industrial Revolution, we need a new brand of Conservatism to build an Opportunity Society for the Fourth. My final article in this series, published tomorrow, will set out the four principles that should guide us as we re-calibrate Conservatism in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This article is the second in a three-part series explaining why adapting to a society and economy shaped by technology is key.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com