Canada’s first-ever pilot to support regional food waste diversion for businesses and institutions has earned international recognition this week, receiving a special mention from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact’s biannual Global Forum.
Pioneered by the Circular Innovation Council, in partnership with Our Food Future, the first-of-its-kind initiative was piloted in Guelph and Wellington County, targeting the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors – Canada’s largest generator of food waste. Demonstrating circular innovation with global scalability, the program mimics the regional collection model of residential organics programs, enabling businesses to work together to reduce the cost of collection, redirect edible food and food waste from landfills and reduce GHG emissions.
Circular Innovation Council’s solution was selected out of 251 practices from 133 cities around the world—the largest number of submissions received by the Milan Pact Awards to date. The Milan Pact Awards promote actions on developing sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe, and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework, and that minimize waste and conserve biodiversity while adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change. The Awards also aim to recognize innovation and stimulate an exchange of best practices amongst Pact signatory cities, encouraging a global network of sustainable advancement.
“As the creator of this innovative Circular Food Recovery and Waste Diversion Pilot, we are honored to receive such esteemed international recognition,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director of Circular Innovation Council. “There’s no other program like this in the world, but it is something that can be done in any jurisdiction. We aim to trial this pilot in other regions and support its replication in their own communities, fostering circular innovation, fighting climate change, and reducing food waste. and food across Canada.”
The results of this program are clear – after just 10 months, 318 tonnes of organic waste were diverted, and 16.1 tonnes of edible food (valued at CA$114,854) recovered and redistributed to nine local charities, resulting in greenhouse gas reductions of 409 tonnes of CO2e within the region. The eye-opening effects of this program have caught the attention of additional Canadian municipalities looking to be leaders in sustainability and food waste reduction in their own regions, with new programs being discussed in Alberta and Quebec.
Selected earlier this year as a finalist in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Food Waste Reduction Challenge: Business Models stream, the Pilot Program’s recognition from Milan Urban Food Policy Pact comes at a time when innovation in food waste reduction is more critical than ever. Though results have been achieved to date at a local level, the benefits of reduced GHG emissions are felt globally as nations work together to fight climate change. The program also strengthens social capital through enhanced business awareness of food insecurity as well as connections to community agencies, all while reducing average disposal costs for those involved.
“Multistakeholder initiatives and place-based innovations are essential to addressing the scale of the climate crisis, and we are grateful to the businesses, charitable partners, and our municipal and federal supports for their support to get this first-of-its-kind initiative not only off the ground but running with great success. We look forward to seeing communities recreate this program in their own regions, facilitating unique partnerships between the public and private sectors to help reduce food waste and carbon emissions.”, said Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director, of Circular Innovation Council
“We are very proud of this award. This project is ground-breaking, aligns with the County’s Climate Change and Sustainability strategy, and honors an amazing commitment from institutions and businesses in our region to address food waste and its effect on climate change,” said Kelly Linton, Warden, County of Wellington
“Guelph-Wellington’s Our Food Future initiative is proud to play a leadership role in this important project, and for it to be recognized on the world stage. This work is an ideal example of the role that institutions can play in the circular food economy, and the impact their efforts will have,” said David Messer, Executive Director, Smart Cities Office – Our Food Future, City of Guelph
“It’s such an honor for this work to be recognized by a highly respected worldwide organization that is guiding cities toward more circular food practices. Guelph and Wellington County continue to lead the way, and we couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved!” said Scott Stewart, Chief Administrative Office, City of Guelph
Circular Innovation Council is a not-for-profit environmental organization operating nationally across Canada. For more than 40 years, the Circular Innovation Council has been delivering programs and projects that raise awareness and challenge Canadians to take action on waste reduction, resource efficiency, sustainability, and more recently the benefits of the circular economy. In concert with our members and partners, we leverage our experience to deliver on the broad gains inspired by the circular economy through programs, projects, and pilots. Our mandate is to inspire greater sustainability across Canada by putting circular economy concepts into action.
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 a regional circular food economy that will achieve a 50 percent increase in access to affordable nutritious food, 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50 percent increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste. Our Food Future and its sister initiative the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) are two of the ways the City of Guelph and the 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.
For more information, visit www.circularinnovation.ca
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