Learning more about household food waste

Claire Sutherns • 8 April 2021

Pilot project will identify avoidable food waste in Guelph green carts

Guelph, Ont., April 8, 2021– The City of Guelph and the Smart Cities office are building public-private sector collaborations to find mutually beneficial solutions to municipal challenges. Through a pilot project, the City and Our Food Future initiative will soon have a better understanding of the food we throw away.

In April, the City will begin a 16-week project: Understanding our Food Waste – Organics Stream Study, in partnership with Kitchener-based Eagle Vision Systems Inc. The company will be using innovative technologies on waste collection vehicles to measure avoidable and unavoidable food waste. Avoidable food waste is edible food that ends up in compost or the green cart. Common causes are buying too much food, cooking too much food and not eating leftovers, or storing it incorrectly. The average family in Guelph generates almost 3 kgs (6.5 lbs) of avoidable food waste every week, according to the Guelph Food Waste project. Unavoidable food waste represents food scraps that are inedible such as meat bones or eggshells.

This new data will help the City better understand residential food disposal habits so it can plan targeted public education and outreach campaigns to help residents reduce food waste and contaminants that cause problems in the organic waste stream.

About the study

The project is a partnership created through Guelph’s Civic Accelerator program. In October 2020, the City launched the challenge to find a partner to consistently collect and analyse detailed household-level data on avoidable food waste and incorrect sorting in the organics stream.

Eagle Vision Systems Inc. responded with a solution that builds on its existing CartSeeker technology, which was installed on a number of Guelph’s waste collection vehicles in 2017. CartSeeker helps waste collection drivers more easily locate waste carts at the curb and operates the arm more accurately to improve collection efficiency. This new solution is being developed with researchers and graduate students at the. University of Guelph’s Intelligent Control and Estimation (ICE) Lab This technology can then be used to help inform the City’s public education and compliance programs and may help reduce the number of municipal waste stream audits needed.

Typically, municipal waste stream audits – a requirement of every municipality - have to be done manually, making them expensive and time consuming for City staff. Using Eagle Vision’s technology to automate this process will provide timely data on the municipal waste system at a far lower cost. The residential food waste challenge is funded through a $15,000 grant from Our Food Future. The project will allow all partners to develop, test and perfect the technology, and then share these learnings with the County and other municipalities. 

The project moves into final planning stages this week. Data collection will commence in late April and conclude at the end of August 2021.

About Our Food Future

Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build Canada’s first tech-enabled circular food economy that will achieve a 50% increase in access to affordable nutritious food, 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50% increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste.

Waste as a Resource is a core workstream of Our Food Future that looks to unlock the value of food waste across the entire food ecosystem, including helping residents learn how to reduce food waste in the home.

Our Food Future demonstrates one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone.

Resources

foodfuture.ca

Quotes

“This is an exciting development for the Our Food Future, Waste as a Resource workstream. One of our goals is to help the community understand the value of reducing their food waste, and it’s important that we have as much information as possible. This will give us a lot more knowledge about exactly what is being thrown away, so that we can provide community members with alternative solutions.”

  • Cameron Walsh, Division Manager, Solid Waste Resources

“The project is exactly the spirit of collaboration that Our Food Future envisioned from the very beginning. For a modest investment from Our Food Future, everyone wins: Eagle Vision and their research partners accelerate the development of this innovative prototype, and the City gains valuable data that helps us meet our Smart Cities goals and that we can share with other municipalities that are looking to help their residents reduce avoidable food waste.”

  • Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director, Smart Cities Office

“It’s always a privilege to work with a municipality like the City of Guelph, who are so progressive in searching out solutions to improve the efficiency and efficacy of waste management.”  

  • Jan d’Ailly, VP Business Development, Eagle Vision Systems Inc.

Media contacts

Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director
Smart Cities Office, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3066
barbara.swartzentruber@guelph.ca


Cameron Walsh, CFM, CET, Division Manager
Solid Waste Resources
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2053
cameron.walsh@guelph.ca