Growing Ideas: United against food waste

The Rabo Loss & Waste Hub unites food waste initiatives

With the world’s population growing from seven to nine billion people by 2050, the looming question is how to feed everyone. According to Pierre Van Hedel, Rabo Loss & Waste Hub Coordinator, the answer lies in reducing food loss and food waste.

The Rabo Loss & Waste Hub (Verspillingshub) is a Rabobank initiative aimed at uniting businesses, NGOs, educators and government in combating food loss and food waste.

How big is the problem?

Pierre van Hedel replies, “I just got back from Africa, where – in a manner of speaking – one truck in every two transporting food flips over. A lot of food is not stored properly, so that half is devoured by termites or other pests. Mangoes fall from the trees within the space of just one month, so that in some cases 90% is left to rot away. In the southern hemisphere, 60% of food does not reach consumers.”

“In the non-Western world waste is most visible at the start of the supply chain, whereas in the West it is mainly at the end,” adds Lieke Verhofstad, who as Program Manager Rabobank Foundation is also involved in the Rabo Loss & Waste Hub.

How did the Rabo Loss & Waste Hub come about?

Rabobank financed the Verspillingsfabriek (the Waste Factory) with an impact fund. The factory, which is located in the Dutch town of Veghel, produces soups and sauces made from ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. Van Hedel: “We said to ourselves, this is just the beginning, so much more needs to be done.”

“This is just the beginning, so much more needs to be done”

- Pierre van Hedel, Coordinator, Rabo Loss & Waste Hub

The Waste Factory became a hotspot for different companies and organizations to come up with solutions for reducing food waste. This led to the creation of Food Waste Xperts, an initiative in which Rabobank has been involved from the start. Various experts help businesses to understand where they can prevent or reduce waste or how they can recycle leftovers into new products.

“There is so much going on in Veghel that Rabobank wanted to establish ourselves here as well. Not with a branch, but as a kind of lab where we can connect, innovate and accelerate ideas and concepts,” says Verhofstad. The result is the Rabo Loss & Waste Hub which formally launched in March 2018.

What exactly is the Rabo Loss & Waste Hub?

The Hub is a place where different parties can meet to develop and test concepts that reduce food waste. Concepts that fit in with Rabobank’s philosophy can then be rolled out within the company.

It supports initiatives like ‘Waste is Wonderful’. Verhofstad explains: “A number of start-ups produce food from ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. One start-up makes beer from stale bread, for instance. These businesses are too small to compete with large companies and so they joined forces to form Waste is Wonderful. We have also provided them with a spot at our head office in Utrecht to sell their products.”

What else does the Rabo Loss & Waste Hub do?

“A local Rabobank branch in the middle of the Netherlands wants to compile a leftovers cookbook,” says Van Hedel. “We thought our clients in other parts of the country would also appreciate it. By adding a couple of recipes, from say Amsterdam, and asking the Director of Rabobank Amsterdam to write the introduction, the cookbook will attract a wider readership.”

“Our is aim is to forge connections through the Hub”

- Lieke Verhofstad, Program Manager, Rabobank Foundation

Verhofstad adds, “We have included ‘leftovers soup’ on the menu at all Rabobank branches that have catering. This not only creates awareness for the process among our staff, it also helps the factory. That may seem like small fry, but all together the impact can be enormous. Our is aim is to forge connections through the Hub – locally, nationally and internationally. With these initiatives, Rabobank aims to contribute to one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: halving food waste by 2030.”

This interview is part of the Growing Ideas series, in which we take a look at the future of food and agriculture and offer a platform to innovative companies in these sectors. It is a translation of an article that was previously published on RTL Z, the website of a Dutch business and financial news channel.