Republic of Poland

First Food Waste Hackathon in Poland

8 December 2017

The participants of the first Food Waste Hackathon in Poland, organized by WUELS among others, tackled food wasting and new technologies that could help solve the problem.

Every year in the European Union there’s 88 million tonnes of food wasted – 173 kg per capita, worth 143 billion euros. Households are the main source of food wasting (53%) – 47 tonnes of food thrown away in homes comes to 98 million euros a year. Statistically, a Pole throws away 52 kg of food every year. The most common reasons for wasting food are missing the expiration date, too large shopping or too large portions of food. Aside from the food itself, natural resources and the amount of work needed to make it are also wasted.

Food Waste Hackathon, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, WUELS,

That’s why as part of STREFOWA project (Strategies to Reduce and Manage Food Waste in Central Europe) 5 hackathons in 5 European cities were organized, aiming to come up with and plan innovative mobile and networking apps supporting the fight against wasting food. Hackathons, that is ’’marathons” of creativity, during which people of different jobs – usually programmers and IT specialists – meet and face the task of solving a particular problem, took place in Vienna, Prague, Miskolc in Hungary, Asti in Italy, and in Wrocław.

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– The project is about preventing and managing food waste in Central Europe. The idea of Hackathon, as a part of the project, stems from the need to work out a different approach to the problem – during the weekend people who are strangers to each other and who have different jobs meet – and it results in an incredible mixture of ideas, knowledge and possibilities. It also stimulates creativity – says dr Jan den Boer from the Institute of Agricultural Engineering at WUELS.

During the Wrocław Food Waste Hackathon the participants tackled four problems being grappled with by four companies taking part in the event: Orbis Hotel Group, Polish Federation of Food Banks, Solvena, and Foodsharing Wrocław. – What’s particularly important is the fact that these problems weren’t something we came up with in a quiet corner of our university. They were real problems of companies and organizations that need solving – adds dr Przemysław Kobel.

And so 5-person teams tackled composting at home, preventing wasting food in hotels, improving the handover of food from and to food banks, and improving foodsharing. Participants’ projects were evaluated by a jury made up of managers and management boards of big companies: AmRest-KFC, Orbis Hotel Group, Abrys and Solvena – they paid for the prizes and picked the best participants.

After a series of presentations, questions and answers, and a run-off, the winning team was the one made up of students from the Renewable energy sources and waste management degree course: Karolina Serwin, Karolina Sobieraj, Karolina Waszkowska, Patrycja Chmielewska and Julia Rokicka.

 – We took on the subject of composting at home and figured it would be easiest to get to families through children, that’s why we created a website with a game called ’’Kubełek Kubuś’’. Obviously, the point is to encourage people living in detached houses to start their own composters, it’s also about making home composting part of the efforts of a municipality, which could monitor the waste level and include it in its recycling levels. Being a member state of the European Union, we have to comply with certain limits – explains Karolina Serwin and her friend Karolina Sobieraj adds: – Depending on the quantity of the obtained compost we planned a series of badges that one can earn – e.g. a seed, a comely earthworm or the king of composting, and prizes for consecutive stages – e.g., seedlings, herbs, tickets to Wrocław’s family attractions. The compost itself can be used in gardens to improve the soil quality – says the student from the Faculty of Life Sciences and Technology. The girls also admit the jury asked them many additional management questions and those aimed at clearing up any doubts related to annoying smells, expansion of the game in the future, promotional campaigns, improving the image of composting, which has somewhat negative connotations.

Food Waste Hackathon, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, WUELS,
The winning team received 2,000 PLN, each of the girls also received a weekend for two in a hotel from the Orbis Group
fot. Helene Pattermann

The second place was taken by a group looking for food sharing solutions – it came up with an app called BlaBlaFood where private figures can announce they have food to hand over, specifying its type, amount, expiration date, place where it can be picked up, etc. It’s an idea that also builds social connections – there’s no middlemen, you don’t leave food in the fridge, you hand it over directly to specific people.

Dr den Boer talks about the third project: – It’s hard to not waste any food in hotels at all so the idea was to build a large container with a scale where employees from different hotel divisions would leave the food waste, marking only where it comes from – whether it’s from the kitchen or the employee cafeteria, ect. Adding up the weight of waste automatically would allow to compare one hotel’s data – e.g. the ratio of amount of waste to the number of guests – to others. If hotel A has half the amount of waste of hotel B then it’s a signal that the situation should be looked into, that the food can be managed in a better way. Plus, measuring the amount of waste itself, even at homes, causes us to try and create less waste.

food waste hackathon, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, WUELS,
  In every group the first stage of work was a brainstorm
fot. Helene Patterman

– The fourth idea was connected to food banks. It was mainly about improving the logistics of food handover between a donor, e.g. a chain store, and a recipient, a charity. An app was created here as well where each party says what they need or what they can give away. The most important benefit turned out to be not only the improvement of food handover but also avoiding huge amounts of paper documentation. Currently, everything needs to be put into food banks’ records manually and it needs to be sorted by categories, not trade names. The app’s system would categorize that automatically – explains dr Kobel.

One winning project in each of five Food Waste Hackathons is going to be implemented as part of STREFOWA project. There’s a chance that other projects will be implemented as well: – Those were real issues for the companies so their representatives were very interested in the solutions and in contacting the participants. The winning team is negotiating with Solvena – a company interested in implementing the idea – sums up dr Kobel.