An 11-year-old schoolgirl from Lincolnshire has invented a fruit bowl that sounds an alarm when its contents are about to expire — to help cut down on food waste.
Rumaan Malik, a pupil at Grasby All Saints Primary School, designed the Alarm Cup after being inspired by what her family throws away at home.
Super impressed by 11 year old Rumaan Malik from Grasby All Saints Primary School – her invention has landed her the @Ocado Food Waste Challenge award! Here's her clever idea https://t.co/5OQ7UIfcGNpic.twitter.com/bwWZZVErS7— Code for Life (@codeforlifeuk) July 13, 2018
It’s called the Alarm Cup, and it was the winning design of more than 500 entries in a competition launched by online grocer Ocado and Little Inventors, which takes children’s inventions and makes them real.
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“I started thinking about what we throw away at home and what would help us stop this happening,” said Malik. “Apples are my favourite fruit, but they were always going all soft when my mum left them out in the fruit bowl and forgot about them."
“I thought that we all need something that could help us use up our fruit by sounding an alarm before it goes off, instead of letting it end up in the bin,” she added.
Malik’s design has now been turned into a real-life fruit bowl by the Little Inventors team, and it’s on display at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum — as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.
Congratulations Rumaan Malik 👏🏽— Toast Ale (@ToastAle) August 21, 2018
We love your idea for a gadget to prevent food waste 🌎https://t.co/Juq2BqG0B3
Her design reportedly features a small touchscreen display, so you can select what kind of fruit is in the bowl so it knows when to set off the alarm — and the screen also shows different recipes to help fight food waste, like banana bread and fruit crumble.
“We were particularly impressed by Rumaan’s invention as it addresses one of the key reasons food ends up in the bin: not using it in time,” said Helen White, special advisor on household food waste at WRAP. “Even if we understand the difference between date labels, we can still struggle to use what we’ve bought.”
“The Alarm Cup challenges this by reminding us when our food needs using up, and nudges us towards adopting positive behaviours that can help to reduce the 5 million tonnes of food food wasted from our homes every year,” she said.
The competition was launched in March, the same month that Ocado released its near-zero food waste figures. At. 0.02%, it means the supermarket wastes just 1 in every 6,000 items.
It has also set itself the goal of becoming the first supermarket with zero edible waste — an important step in tackling Britain’s nationwide food waste problem.
In the UK alone, the average household throws away £700 worth of edible food every year, according to anti-waste organisation the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). Meanwhile, 1 in 4 parents in the UK are reportedly skipping meals so they can afford to feed their children.
WRAP has also estimated that the food industry is responsible for around 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste each year — 70% of which could have been avoided.
It takes 70 litres of water to produce one apple. 📷💦📷🍏— FAO (@FAO) July 31, 2018
When you waste food you also waste the resources that went into producing it! pic.twitter.com/hMMNl5RKJc
And food and environmental group Feedback says that supermarkets play a key role in this supply chain waste, because they have “normalised overproduction and the resulting waste.”
According to WRAP, some of the most common reasons for throwing food away include not storing it correctly, or using it in time; preparing and cooking more than we need; and lack of planning.
Other supermarkets around the UK are also taking action against food waste — largely through so-called “ugly fruit and veg” ranges. Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl, the Co-op, and Asda are among those that have launched schemes to sell off produce that is at risk of going to waste.
Cutting the amount of fresh produce that’s going to waste around the world is a really important step in tackling problems with the global food chain.
Globally, about a third of all food produced for human consumption — around 1.3 billion tonnes — is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). The waste amounts to around $680 billion in industrialised countries, and $310 billion in developing countries.
And, of all foods, fruit and veg — including roots and tubers — have the highest wastage rates, of about 50% for root crops, fruits, and vegetables.