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Circular Economy in a School Canteen

Niki is the owner of the school canteen since four years and is responsible for ordering, preparing and selling products to the school children. The canteen is within the school premises and her clients are the school children, teachers and administrative staff of the school.

Tell us a little about what you do: I am the owner of the school canteen where I sell food items from 8:15 in the morning to 15:00 each school day. I am responsible for purchasing, preparing, storing and packaging the food but also for selling and re-distribution in case of left-overs.

Have you heard of the circular economy? Yes, I have although I am not applying it in my work horizontally or regularly due to external restrictions I have. There are several, respective actions I would like to implement such as external cooperation with the municipality and suppliers to re-distribute and use food items (vegetables, fruits etc.) within the canteen, but has proven quite difficult to do so. Currently, I conduct recycling of all material that can be recycled, inform the students and staff about this as well as am in communication with the municipality to start composting activities for food waste.

How can the circular approach be applied in your field and in other areas? The following are easily implementable as long as the necessary cooperation is set up:

  1. Composting of food waste and distribution of compost to local farmers
  2. Collection of plastic bottle caps and hand them over to ELEPAP (they collect plastic caps and donate wheelchairs to those in need)
  3. Cooperation with local market farmers who can donate their surplus food to the municipality schools, for example: left over fruits can be distributed as free fruit salads to the school children,
  4. Networking and cooperation between suppliers, producers and sellers to identify food items that can be used, recycled, re-used between them. The local authorities should be involved as coordinators through a platform.

Do you inform the students on circularity and sustainability? Yes, as much as possible to change their behaviors towards food waste and recycling issues. In cooperation with the school this could be much easier.

Is it possible – and easy – to avoid food waste in your sector? Yes, after four years of experience running the canteen, I have almost no food waste. Any food waste that is sometimes created, is donate to friends and family, but is very little.