Fusebox EPFL

You throw……You Pay

Neeraj Dhar
Neeraj Dhar | Mar 12, 2014 | in Bühler "From Farm to Fork"

According to the World Food Programme, there is enough food being produced to feed everyone on this planet, yet about 1 billion of the world's population remains hungry. The problem obviously is access. We, the fortunate who are able to feed ourselves need to give a helping hand to those who are unable.

My idea is that we install donation boxes wherever food is thrown (whether it is the waste tray holders in your cafeteria or restaurants or your local food dumpster). People who discard half eaten meals (a piece of bread, portion of pasta.... anything), puts in a small proportionate amount of money (whatever they feel was the cost they paid for that portion of the meal) into this donation box. This money should then be used for food distribution to hungry people as well as towards research to improve food production and storage.

People do dieting for a fad. We can start a new movement "Diet for a cause". Hunger can be eradicated if all people in developed countries skip just one meal every week (one lunch or dinner), just for one month. The cost of that one meal can be donated to feed the World's hungry. It costs just $50 to feed one hungry child for an ENTIRE YEAR (www.wfp.org). Imagine the impact if everyone does this not just for one month but for an entire year. This would not only be good for eradicating world hunger, but also would be good for that individual's own health. 

Restaurants and grocery stores throw expired food on much larger scale, they should be penalised and be forced to pay a pre-fixed amount for every unit of food thrown away. This will force them to be extra-vigilant and not over-stock on food items.

People are addicted to sites such as Facebook. Encourage people to visit sites such as http://freerice.com/#/english-vocabulary/1505 or play quiz such as http://quiz.wfp.org by uploading these links to your web pages or visiting these sites everytime you update your status on Facebook. These programs donate food grains in proportion to the number of hits these sites get.

Yannick Rihs Mar 12, 2014


Thanks for the idea. It is right that access to food is a big problem wordwide. Nevertheless, by collecting money to allow more people to buy food, you increase the price of food and augment the pressure on the environment due to more food production.

Maybe you could think of a way to incentive people to waste less and therefore make more food available for poorer people?


Andreas Baumann Mar 14, 2014

Thanks for your post, which suggest to pay money if you throw food that will be used to feed hungry people in the third world. I have three questions:

1) How would you control that people really pay for discarded food and not just throw it in the standard waste bin or a composting station?

2) What would you consider waste? If I peel my apple, is the peel waste or not? I mean, the peel could be eaten. Where would you draw the line between food waste and not food waste?

3) How would you make sure that hungry people will profit from the money that is payed? How would you decide, who will profit from the money?

Neeraj Dhar Mar 14, 2014

Thank you Yannick and Andreas for your comments.

With regards to Andreas`s questions

1) The penalty at least at the individual and in cafeterias is entirely voluntary. The aim is to rely on the guilt conscience of the individual who is throwing food to give a thought to the hungry person who would give an arm or leg for even a small piece of food that is being thrown. Over time people would stop throwing food, either due to increased awareness or due to the associated penalty and thus food wastage would be reduced. In due course of time, this would feedback into the food pipeline and hopefully food should be redirected to where it is more needed.

In larger establishments such as restaurants or shopping outlets, food is thrown on a much larger scale. Here the penalizing can be done with better control and more regularised manner. It can be made mandatory that food items are marked with the outlets or establishments initials so that even if they throw the wastes in communal bins it can be traced to them. 

2) Personally I wouldnt consider apple peel as food wastage. I consider food wastage as what you see all the time in restaurants and cafeterias, where people throw half a plate of rice or pasta or piece of uneaten bread or meat or slice of a pie. They are not thinking to the 1 billion poor people who will go to sleep without having a single meal the entire day. The penalty box will force them to think about these people and inculcate better food habits in them.

3) I dont think any specific person or association needs to profit from this. There are already established NGOs who are involved in feeding the hungry. They already have the necessary setup and channels to feed the hungry. We dont need to create yet another NGO. We can just direct the collected funds to one of these organisations who are doing the job most efficiently with minimum overhead costs. 

Elizabeta Laskova Mar 14, 2014

Having worked in restaurants, I can tell you it is nearly impossible to avoid throwing away food for a variety of reasons - rationing, prepared food not sold, and customers who simply don't like to finish their meal. If restaurants could avoid this waste, they would be more than happy to save themselves the buck the pay for the products which end up in the trash.

However, I think your idea could be applied on the demand side where customers can choose a smaller size meals for cheaper so customers buy the amount they want to eat. Yet, again, restaurants don't tend to make a good profit on such dishes..