These 4 companies are turning food waste into cosmetics, clothing and more

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • One-third of all the food produced in the world is going to waste.
  • But innovative companies are finding ways to utilize that waste.
  • A Spanish start-up is making a skincare range from ‘ugly’ fruit.
  • And food waste is being turned into sustainable textiles for the fashion industry.

An estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world is simply going to waste, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Putting an end to that waste would clearly help address the issue of world hunger, which is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In the meantime, finding innovative ways to put food waste to productive use is helping create jobs and improve sustainability.

These four diverse projects show how clothing, cosmetics and commercial opportunities can be powered by food waste.

a chart showing that approximately 14% of food goes to waste
Food waste should be repurposed for a more sustainable planet. Image: Statista

Not so ‘ugly’ fruit

Have you ever considered applying food waste to your face? Spanish designer Júlia Roca Vera hopes that one day you will. She has created a range of cosmetics, including cleansers and moisturizers, based on unwanted foodstuff. In this case though, rather than use waste, the raw material she uses is fruit that has been considered too ugly to appeal to shoppers – prompting Roca Vera to name her new venture Lleig, which means ugly in Catalan. The products are sold in reusable, ceramic containers to enhance their sustainability.

An alternative to polyester

Toronto-based Alt Tex is a start-up producing polylactic acid (PLA) from food waste, to form an alternative to polyester. The starch and sugars from unwanted food are ideal for the production of PLA, Alt Tex says. Unlike polyester, PLA is a biodegradable plastic substitute. And unlike some other makers of PLA, which use commercially grown PLA crops like corn, Alt Tex is working with the food and drink industry to collect, and use, waste. Circular economy

What is a circular economy?

The global population is expected to reach close to 9 billion people by 2030 – inclusive of 3 billion new middle-class consumers.This places unprecedented pressure on natural resources to meet future consumer demand.

A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.

Nothing that is made in a circular economy becomes waste, moving away from our current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy. The circular economy’s potential for innovation, job creation and economic development is huge: estimates indicate a trillion-dollar opportunity.The Circular Economy | World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum has collaborated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for a number of years to accelerate the Circular Economy transition through Project MainStream – a CEO-led initiative that helps to scale business driven circular economy innovations.

Join our project, part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security System Initiative, by contacting us to become a member or partner.

And an alternative to plastic

Another Toronto-based start-up company working with food waste is Genecis. Using bacteria, Genecis is converting food waste into a polymer that can be used as an alternative to plastic packaging, called polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHA.

“Food waste is pretty much a concentration of carbons, very similar to crude oil from the ground, that you can make a lot of products out of. We thought with today’s technology, we can convert the carbon from food waste as a really low-cost feedstock into high-value chemicals and materials,” Genecis CEO Luna Yu told Fast Company.

A whole new supply chain

Food waste occurs at every stage in the supply chain and for many different reasons. It can be for superficial reasons, like appearance, or it can be because of oversupply and poor storage.

For female farmers in Kenya and Uganda, these are both significant challenges. The East African start-up Agricycle began with a simple-to-use solar dehydrator that allowed fruit farmers to turn perishable produce into a longer-lasting dry-fruit snack food.

Since then, it has developed a separate business to buy and market the dried fruit, selling it to stores in the US. “We’ve created just under 7,000 livelihoods to date, and they make between seven to 10 times the average daily wage,” Agricycle founder and CEO Josh Shefner told Fast Company.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Italy’s dilemma after Merkel-Hollande agreed loose banking union

Nokia wins Commission’s approval for Alcatel-Lucent acquisition: a new way for antitrust cases?

9 steps to bridging the net-zero funding gap

Innovating together: connectivity that matters

Quality coffee can boost local economies and benefit farmers – here’s how

What has changed in the French politico-economic horizon

Ambitions are affordable for Asia and the Pacific

Here’s how drone delivery will change the face of global logistics

European Youth Forum welcomes strong stance on human rights in State of the Union

UN food agency appeals for access to key storage facility amid fight for Hudaydah

Millions of young people need better job skills. Here’s how businesses can help

‘Leaders who sanction hate speech’ encourage citizens to do likewise, UN communications chief tells Holocaust remembrance event

4 ways to deliver social justice during the COVID-19 recovery

‘Global trust’ declining, ‘our world needs stepped-up global leadership’

Occupational safety and health in a changing world of work

Do not take the EP’s consent on MFF for granted, says Budget Committee Chair

Global spotlight on world drug problem ‘is personal’ for many families, says UN chief

Parliament gives green light to EU-Singapore trade and investment protection deals

UN global education envoy urges new funding for ‘lost generation’ of children forced out of classrooms by conflict

Our Amazon is disappearing in ashes

FROM THE FIELD: ‘Miraculous’ music made by hearing-impaired children

Bias in AI is a real problem. Here’s what we should do about it

Three ways China can make the New Silk Road sustainable

Why skills are keeping CEOs awake at night

EU mobilises emergency assistance following floods in Ukraine

How quantum computing could beat climate change

4 ways to build a net-zero economy by 2050

Coronavirus: EU makes available additional humanitarian funding of €41 million to fight the pandemic

Technology companies have power. They must assume responsibility

EU Copyright Directive: Will US tech giants comply or ditch the EU market?

To Fight the Pandemic, Put Trust and Cooperation Before Politics

The EU slowly exits from “Excessive Deficit Procedure” and hopefully from ‘Excessive Austerity Procedure’ too

Things are bad and getting worse for South Africa. Or are they?

200 women call on tech giants to prioritize online safety. Here’s how

Aid teams respond to escalating southwest Syria conflict: 750,000 civilians are at risk

Libya: Attack on foreign ministry, an attack on all Libyans, stresses UN envoy

Mobility package: Parliament adopts position on overhaul of road transport rules

2020 EU Budget: Performance report highlights swift and global EU response to the coronavirus crisis while supporting key EU priorities

European Youth Forum welcomes establishment of new Youth Intergroup in the European Parliament

Take-home pay growing at lowest level since 2008, as gender-gap persists: UN labour agency

FROM THE FIELD: A UN peacekeepers-eye view of DR Congo

EU-Ukraine Summit: Moving Forward Together

MEPs oppose EU Commission plans to authorise three herbicide-resistant GMOs

Afghanistan: lead MEPs demand safe departure of EU nationals and Afghan partners and urgent tackling of humanitarian crisis

Here’s how sustainable aviation fuel can take off in Europe

A Sting Exclusive: “EU’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan – Laying down the foundations for a Greener Financial System”, by European Commission’s Vice-President Dombrovskis

4 myths about corruption

Climate change and health: public health awareness in an international framework

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Diplomacy for Peace Day, #VaccinesWork, the cost of war on Afghans, tech and well-being

VAT: New e-commerce rules in the EU will simplify life for traders and introduce more transparency for consumers

Impressions of China

Five things everybody needs to know about the future of Journalism

OECD Secretary-General Gurría welcomes announcement of new trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada

A year on from Yemen talks breakthrough, top UN Envoy hails ‘shift’ towards peace, despite setbacks

LGBTQI+ and medicine, in the Land of the Pure

Protecting the ocean is key to fighting climate change

Asian and Pacific economies: decreases in tax revenue highlight need to broaden tax bases

New UN Global Climate report ‘another strong wake-up call’ over global warming: Guterres

This is how to make driving an EV more accessible and affordable

Banking on sunshine: world added far more solar than fossil fuel power generating capacity in 2017

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: