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It's time to stop wasting so much food

An industrial design student from Brunel University, London, has created a way of tackling food waste, by integrating a time sensor into the lids of jars, bottles and cartons, which automatically informs users how many days each product has left until it is no longer fresh. Stephanie Prichard, designer of the Freshness Cap, believes this simple, cost-effective device could play a major role in reducing the six million tonnes of household food waste that is produced in the UK each year.

During her research, Stephanie discovered that one third of all food we buy is thrown away. A large percentage of this is food in jars, bottles and cartons, primarily because they have been sitting in the fridge for a few days or weeks, with the owner unaware of exactly when the product was opened.

Stephanie's design offers a simple solution. Once a product has been opened, a time sensor is automatically activated, with a red line appearing on the top of the lid. The line gradually travels across the lid, indicating how many days the product is fresh for. Once the line reaches the end of the lid, the product is no longer fresh. The sensors can be set by manufacturers for between three and 28 days, in accordance with the shelf life of each product.

According to Stephanie, “Food waste has huge economic and environmental implications. When uneaten food is binned, we are throwing away the natural resources as well as the energy and time used to make the food. Discarded food ends up in landfill and rots to generate methane - a greenhouse gas which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. I wanted to create a product to address this issue.

“With my design, the food status is communicated intuitively via the red line. Once the line reaches the half way point on the cap, the user will realise that they have two fresh days left to consume their food. This should encourage people to use up their food and will therefore help to minimise waste.“

Stephen Green, lecturer at Brunel University's School of Engineering and Design, commented, “Stephanie's design is so simple and is cheap to produce. With supermarkets and food manufacturers constantly striving to enhance their environmentally friendly policies, I am sure there will be a great deal of interest in this product.

“Stephanie is showcasing her design at the MADE IN BRUNEL exhibition this week, alongside other Design and Engineering final year students' projects. Freshness Cap should attract interest from both the public and industry.“