Lisbon is aspiring to become the first fully ‘Zero Waste’ capital in the world after the council signed a protocol on Wednesday this week with the Gulbenkian Foundation and the association Dar i Acordar, in a move that aims to ensure perfectly good food which would otherwise be thrown out as waste, reaches the city’s needy.
Launched by the association Dar i Acordar, the ‘Zero Desperdício’ project (Zero Waste) ultimately looks to put an end to food squandering in Portugal.
During the ceremony, held in the Town Hall’s main room, a mascot for an institutional campaign to be rolled out in schools was also unveiled.
The campaign aims to teach children about food waste via educational projects to be carried out during the next school year.
Through the new protocol, Lisbon council also wants to promote Zero Waste among companies, institutions and other entities with which it is developing social, economic and institutional partnerships.
Dar i Acordar’s Zero Desperdício movement has the high patronage of the President of the Portuguese Republic, Cavaco Silva.
Founded in January 2011 by nine citizens, the Dar i Acordar (DIA) association was created to promote and contribute towards recovering surplus resources in general, and pre-prepared meals specifically.
Little over a year later, in April 2012, the association created, among other partnerships, the Zero Waste movement, which aims to re-use excess pre-prepared foods and leftovers that are perfectly adequate for consumption but which would otherwise be thrown away.
It collects untouched leftover food from public and private entities, such as restaurants and canteens, to avoid food waste, and redistributes them among charitable institutions that help feed the capital’s hungry, hence simultaneously contributing towards providing for social needs.
Since being launched on 16 April 2012, and until 31 December 2013, the Zero Desperdício movement has expanded to cover Lisbon, Loures, Cascais and Sintra.
It now calls upon around 100 donors and supplies some 60 recipient institutions who distribute the food to 2,100 needy families, feeding in the region of 7,300 people.
During those 20 months, the movement, run by around 250 volunteers, rescued close to 900,000 meals at zero cost for any of the partners involved.
Figures from the movement indicate that around 360,000 Portuguese go hungry, while it is estimated that every day, close to 50,000 meals are wasted from north to south of the country.
“The Zero Desperdício movement aims to make the most of food that otherwise would end up in the bin – food that never left the kitchen, whose validity date is close to expiring or food that was never put on display nor came into contact with the public – and get it to the people who need it”, the movement’s mission statement explains.
Establishments that adhere to the movement are identified with a Zero Desperdício stamp, so when members of the public enter a stamped eatery “they can be sure that all those [untouched] meals are made the most of and sent to someone’s table”, at no extra cost to the businesses or their clients.
Meanwhile, in related news, food rescue groups could soon be emerging all over Portugal through a similar proposal – the Re-Food Project – which was launched in March 2011 by American Hunter Halder, who lives in Lisbon.
Mr. Halder, who has worked in Portugal for twenty years, launched Re-Food after witnessing first-hand the effects of the financial and economic crisis.
“I had to reinvent my career, which isn’t something that really bothers me, I’ve done it many times before, but this time when I looked in the mirror, instead of trying to decide what to do with my life, I examined what I had done with it and found, let’s say, it was wanting.”
Determined to give something back the expat drew up a number of possible humanitarian projects before a conversation with his daughter, who had recently started a new job in the hospitality sector, touched upon the topic of food waste and led to the creation of Re-Food.
There are currently four Re-Food nucleuses – which are 100 per cent driven by citizens, for citizens, and partner with the Dar i Acordar association – in action in and around Lisbon, with a further four set to open in the city this spring.
Fourteen more groups are expected to complete the long process of local groundwork and investigation before officially launching later this year in autumn.
Many more teams are in the process of being formed “a little all over the country”, including northern Portugal and in the Algarve, where this past weekend volunteer drives were held in Algoz and Almancil.
It is hoped that before the end of the year, teams will be operating there too.
Re-Food volunteers are asked to give just a couple of hours of their time a week and use their own means to collect unwanted food from participating eateries, distributing it directly to hungry families and individuals.
According to Mr. Halder’s calculations, Re-Food currently rescues around 15,000 meals per month, at an average cost of ten cents per meal.
Given the direct proximity to the local community, Re-Food’s volunteers are even managing to identify and provide food to a new generation of needy “who are ashamed of being hungry” – tackling the so-called ‘fome envergonhada’.
Addressing the recent protocol celebrated between Lisbon Council and the DIA to make Lisbon the world’s first ‘Zero Waste’ capital, Mr Halder says it is a “good thing” and he has no doubt the city will achieve their shared goal.
“Two-and-a-half years ago I said, one day Lisbon will be without waste and without hunger.”
For more information, see: www.zerodesperdicio.pt, or Facebook Refood Portugal.