THREE-SIXTY in Veghel conceives innovative solutions for a circular economy. The Verspillingsfabriek (waste factory) is a good example.
Five billion euros. That is the value of the food wasted each year in the Netherlands. Dutch consumers buy twenty percent more than they need, cook thirty percent more than they can eat, and throw twenty percent away. On top of that, you also have to factor in all the food waste generated by food producers, processors, shops and restaurants. What type of food accounts for the most waste? Vegetables and fruit. Innovation centre THREE-SIXTY wants to put an end to this with the Verspillingsfabriek in Veghel. Surplus food, leftovers and food products that are not good enough for retail consumers are processed here to produce healthy soups and sauces.
And, because the Verspillingsfabriek buys those misshapen courgettes, slightly discoloured bell peppers and overripe tomatoes at a rock-bottom price, its soups and sauces are full of healthy nutrients. For example: tomato ketchup from a very well-known brand only contains eight percent tomatoes. The ketchup produced by the Verspillingsfabriek contains seventy-one percent. Furthermore, there are no added sugars and preservatives in the product. The soup from Veghel does justice to its name: ‘Barstensvol!’, which means bursting at the seams. In addition to tackling food waste, the factory also opposes wasting human talent: most of the work is carried out by people with poor prospects of finding a job in the normal labour market.
The Verspillingsfabriek is part of THREE-SIXTY, a meeting place for entrepreneurs, investors, start-ups, societal organisations, researchers and students who jointly conceive innovative solutions for a circular economy – an economy in which as many products and raw materials as possible are re-used. It is an initiative of Bob Hutten, the Managing Director of Hutten Catering. His ambition is to make THREE-SIXTY the leading international knowledge and expertise centre in the battle against (food) waste. Important partners and ‘tenants’ include Wageningen University & Research (WUR), HAS University of Applied Sciences, CSR Netherlands, the North-Brabant Development Agency (BOM), Foundation AANtWERK and Milgro, which specialises in waste management and other services.
The Food Waste Xperts also have their own domain in THREE-SIXTY. Entrepreneurs who want to take positive action to prevent food waste can come to them here with their questions. Collaboration and innovation, sharing knowledge and encouraging networking; this is what THREE-SIXTY is all about. And information transfer and education are also important. In March 2018 - the month dedicated to ‘Together Against Waste’, see insert - the Verspillingsfabriek opened its doors to around 1400 students from primary schools, secondary schools and schools for vocational education. Because young people are the hope of the future. On one of the last days of the month, fifteen students from Het Hooghuis West in Oss, a pre-vocational secondary education school that focuses on practical training, arrive on the doorstep.
The students, who are in the third year of their course in Care & Welfare, meet up with Frenk van den Berg from Hutten Catering, who explains the idea behind the Verspillingsfabriek and takes them on a tour. The reason for choosing THREE-SIXTY as a name becomes immediately obvious (there are three hundred and sixty degrees in a circle): all kinds of old materials have been re-used to fit out and equip the former distribution centre, which stood empty for many years. For example, the seats in the ‘lecture hall’ were formerly used in the waiting areas at the gates at Schiphol airport.
Tasting sessions are part of the experience when you visit a food factory. The students from Het Hooghuis are asked to taste ketchup in a blind trial. Van den Berg is convinced that they will find the tomato-rich product made by the Verspillingsfabriek much tastier than the ketchup produced by a well-known leading brand, which contains up to forty sugar cubes per bottle. The result is surprising. All but one of the students prefers the taste they know: the ketchup with lots of sugar. So, it will take time for consumers to adjust, Frenk van den Berg concludes: “We have to get accustomed to ‘pure’ flavours.”
Prior to their visit to the Verspillingsfabriek, the students were asked to work in groups and prepare presentations. Their assignment: think of ways to prevent food waste. The hesitant gait of the fourteen girls and one boy from Het Hooghuis as they make their way to the stage at the front of the lecture hall gives you the distinct impression that they would rather be somewhere else. But when they start to present their ideas, you can see that they find this theme extremely important. The first group wants to reduce food waste in restaurants and suggests using doggy bags so that people who are unable to eat all the food on their plate can take the leftovers home with them. Van den Berg particularly likes their second idea: ask guests whether they want a small, medium-sized or large portion. The second group presents tips for the school canteen: put leftover ingredients in the freezer or donate them to the Food Bank. And make a shopping list to ensure that you only buy what you need. If these young people from Brabant have anything to do with it, wasting food will soon be a thing of the past.
Brabant has been voted the ‘European Region of Gastronomy’ in 2018. Because, according to the organisations involved, lovingly producing food, culinary enjoyment and strong innovation in catering are all part of our DNA: We Are Food. The theme of 2019 is Eating Better in Brabant. And that includes wasting as little food as possible. This is reflected by the focus chosen for March 2018: Together Against Waste. The Ambassador for this initiative is Bob Hutten, the Managing Director of Hutten Catering and founder of THREE-SIXTY and the Verspillingsfabriek.
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