Impact Story

Fruit for thought

Of all the ways we can collectively have a positive impact on sustainability, reducing food waste ranks as one we should be most motivated to address.

Food waste is estimated to be responsible for up to 11.8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions—a higher footprint than the airline industry, global plastic manufacturing and global oil extraction combined.

Yet every year, an estimated 40% of all fruit grown worldwide is thrown away.

It’s an issue that hits home in more ways than one. Helsingborg is the Swedish and Nordic countries’ main port of entry for up to 90% of all imported fruit. But a lot of it gets thrown away as soon as it lands—not because it isn’t good, but because the expected shelf life is perceived as too short to justify being transported further.

It’s simply cheaper to throw it away—and along with it, the water and land use costs that went into its production in the first place. Not to mention all of the CO2 emissions generated to that point through production and transportation.

Common sense to the rescue

Awareness of the issue—and the commitment to do something about it—grew spontaneously from the proximity of innovation-centric actors in and around Mindpark, one of the hubs for the Helsingborg Innovation District.

The idea began to take shape during a creative brainstorming session attended by entrepreneurs, researchers, and Lund University Campus Helsingborg students. It grew from there, with cross-collaboration between food programme and marketing students and faculty, large fruit importers, and the Mindpark-affiliated business and investment communities.

With support from the management and communication programmes at the university, an early stage pilot was devised, funded and accepted for testing— the Rscued fruit rescue factory, where fruit and vegetables are sorted by hand, and turned into new fresh consumables.

Since 2015, the factory has been making juices and shots from whatever is available on the day. It also presses fruits and berries, peels bananas, and makes purees. Because the types and volumes of fruit and vegetable change constantly, products and availability vary according to what’s available—no two days are alike. At times, Rscued will buy fresh fruit from import partners to supplement the rescued supply for seasonal juice, smoothies, lemonades, and shots.

Strengthening the food chain

Rscued’s most measurable impact is in the reduction of food waste they have enabled. In recent years, they have saved over 500 tons of fruit and other foods, an enormous resource saving for society. Not only in terms of CO2 emissions, but also in reducing water use, eutrophication, and pesticide contamination. They have also contributed to higher food security, while creating new economic value for the region and country.

The company has expanded widely, today also enabling the Swedish public and retail sectors to donate fruit and foodstuffs that could be converted into new marketable products. Individuals with an excess of fruit grown in their orchards, and companies who work with fruit and excesses from time to time, can contact Rscued for information on becoming a partner rescuer.

The operation is a model for transformational global impact innovation operated at the grassroots level—one driven forward through cross-collaborative efforts of industry, government and academia. And with time, that could serve as an inspirational and operational framework for minimising food waste worldwide.

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