In Portugal, a million tonnes of food are wasted every year, amounting to 17% of the total food production. The reasons are numerous and occur along all the food supply chain: intensive production models, inadequate storage and transportation, expiration dates that are too tight and sale discounts that encourage consumers to buy unreasonably. Another reason is the preference for fruit and vegetables that are ‘perfect’ in terms of shape, colour and size, which ultimately restricts food consumption. This food waste has also environmental implications, since it involves the unnecessary use of resources in their production (soil, energy and water).
The FLAW4LIFE project aimed to change food consumption habits and create an alternative market for ‘ugly’ (or less than perfect-looking) fruit and vegetables. It aimed to bring about the equal marketing of all quality fruit and vegetables regardless of their size, colour and shape. The project achieved this goal by replicating nationally an innovative methodology (called Fruta Feia or Ugly Fruit), which had already been tested in Lisbon.
Fruta Feia's methodology consisted of buying weekly from local producers the small, big or misshaped products that they cannot sell in the regular market and then selling these products to Fruta Feia’s associated consumers, who pick them up at the end of the day at fixed delivery points. The project increased the number of delivery points in Portugal to 11, thus avoiding approximately 460 tonnes of waste annually.
During the first phase of the project implementation, the pilot project was optimised and a business plan drawn up. Based on the results and lessons learned in the pilot project, eight new delivery points were set up. With the support of local authorities and target groups, a nationwide network of farmers, local coordinators and consumers was established.
Furthermore, the FLAW4LIFE project established the resources required to foster an international network of associations and other entities involved in food waste management. It provided support to associations, transferring the know-how and the comprehensive results in Portugal.
The FLAW4LIFE project exceeded expectations in the way it demonstrated its methods. It resulted in 14.6 tonnes less fruit and vegetable waste per week (from a goal of 11.9 tonnes per week), increased farm efficiencies – saving 16 054 m3 of water/week, 20 975 kWh/week of energy and 16 ha of arable soil – and reduced GHG emissions from transportation and decomposition by 13,021 kg CO2 eq/week. First tested in Lisbon, the deliveries were rolled out to other cities (Porto, Gaia, Matosinhos, Braga, Amadora and Almada) with greater numbers of participants and more fruit and vegetables saved than expected:
These results show the project’s relevance to environmental policies at all levels (regional/local, national and European) in its capacity to reduce food waste and increase resource efficiency. In particular, it has already influenced the Portuguese National Strategy to Combat Food Waste through the “Guidelines on sustainable consumption” produced by the project. The project has proven that the consumption model proposed is fully replicable in other regions in Portugal facing similar situations. Furthermore, the project received visits from several international associations interested in replicating Fruta Feia’s approach. Three of them have been able to effectively implement a similar project (in the USA, Brazil and Netherlands). A “Powered by Fruta Feia” logotype was created to be used by those projects and associations that successfully replicated the Fruta Feia’s methodology, based on the same principles and motivations.
Social benefits were also a strong element. Local associations hosting the delivery points were revitalised; minority and vulnerable groups (refugees, socially vulnerable women and children, needy families and people with psychiatric problems) gained volunteering experience; and at the end of each day leftover boxes and products from delivery points were given to social institutions.
In terms of education, the project organised awareness-raising activities in municipal schools in Lisbon to explain the problem of wasting food based on appearance, and to encourage sustainable consumption by eating local, seasonal and ugly fruits and vegetables. 4 119 pupils – over 1 000 more than planned – took part in salad contests, food weeks and games, and a book written by students from 15 schools was published. A best practices handbook was also published.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).