B.C. company pitches ‘industrial scale’ solution to food waste

A British Columbia company says it’s developed a system to minimize food waste on an industrial scale — but that without investors or provincial support, the model won’t work.

ReFeed founder Sturart Lilley told Global News his facility processes more than 5 million killograms of food every year that would have been destined for landfills.

“This is food that would otherwise be wasted. So produce, we bring it in here, we rescue it for people first,” he said.

“What’s left over we use as livestock feed and supply that to local farmers.”

Click to play video: 'Thousands of oranges dumped at waste centre in North Vancouver'

Thousands of oranges dumped at waste centre in North Vancouver

Lilley estimates about 10 per cent of what comes through the facility can be rescued for human consumption, and is distributed through partners like the Metro Vancouver Food Bank.

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“We’re a true zero-waste facility,” he said.

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More than 50 million tonnes of food waste are produced every year in Canada. Metro Vancouver estimates 13,000 tonnes of edible, healthy food is thrown out every year in the region.

Lilley said up to 40 per cent of that waste is created before the food ever makes it to the grocery store.

That type of waste drew renewed scrutiny this week after it was revealed truckloads of apparently edible mandarin oranges were being dumped at the North Vancouver transfer station.

“It was discouraging to see that was still happening, but not surprising,” Lilley said.

“It was frustrating, because this is the solution for that.”

Click to play video: 'How to make use of kitchen food scraps'

How to make use of kitchen food scraps

Currently, ReFeed is juggling a variety of revenue streams, including produce sold to food banks, animal feed sold to farmers, as well as $25 rescued product packs called “bounty boxes.”

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It also produces fertilizer and soil amender with some of the waste — a product stream Lilley said could underpin the entire business’s finances.

A key investor backed out of that plan earlier this year, he said, leaving the company’s finances on a knife edge.

“We were right there, we had all the pieces lined up, but just because of funding we weren’t able to bring that part to fruition, which would have enabled this to be a completely sustainable model,” he said.

“For it to get this close to being the solution that is needed. That would be a real shame.”

While the hunt for funding continues, Lilley has started a GoFundMe campaign to try and keep the operation afloat, and said he is looking into the possibility of registering as a non-profit.

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