GUEST BLOG: Turning the Tide: How Siel Environmental is Pioneering Food Waste Innovation in the Caribbean

GUEST BLOG: Turning the Tide: How Siel Environmental is Pioneering Food Waste Innovation in the Caribbean


GUEST BLOG: Turning the Tide: How Siel Environmental is Pioneering Food Waste Innovation in the Caribbean

Written by: Sian Cuffy Young, Founder and CEO of Siel Environmental
  |   February 20, 2024

The Caribbean, renowned for its picturesque beaches, a rich tapestry of cultures, abundant natural resources, and exquisite cuisine, holds the promise of sustainability and abundance as island communities. However, the stain of food waste looms large over this idyllic image, threatening both our environmental heritage and community well-being. In a region deeply ingrained in agriculture, the squandering of food represents a betrayal of our cultural and economic legacy. It intensifies environmental degradation, worsening challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Recognizing the critical importance of food waste management is imperative for preserving our natural beauty, safeguarding food security, and upholding our cultural identity for generations to come.

But just how big of an issue is this? While data regarding the extent of food waste in the United States is readily available, we lack comprehensive information on food loss and waste across the Caribbean region at a country level. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 6% of global food losses occur in Latin America and the Caribbean region. However, while estimates for food waste at the country level in Latin America are available, there is a notable absence of data from the Caribbean. Consequently, ‌food waste in small island states remains an area of significant uncertainty.

This absence of data not only presents a logistical challenge but also creates a void in our understanding of the issue. Thus, addressing food waste requires filling this data gap to implement effective solutions.

Currently, we face a triple challenge. 

Trinidad and Tobago, and other Caribbean countries lack comprehensive policies to regulate and reduce food loss and waste, resulting in fragmented efforts. Although the FAO for Latin America and the Caribbean continues to advocate for food loss and waste, individual countries themselves have been slow to adopt policies. The absence of a unified approach hampers progress and leaves a void that urgently needs to be filled.

In addition, financing is a perpetual stumbling block. Many of us, from small community initiatives to larger organizations, struggle to secure the necessary funds to implement and scale effective solutions. Without financial support, our potential for impactful change remains severely constrained.

On a personal note, equity, especially for BIPOC founders like myself, continues to be an unsettling reality‌. As a Black female founder of Caribbean heritage, I've encountered formidable barriers that are common among other marginalized communities. These obstacles include difficulty in accessing resources—both human and financial—as well as opportunities and support. From my experience, our region is often overlooked or intensely competitive, making it difficult to secure resources and opportunities. 

Despite these challenges, grassroots initiatives and community-driven projects, such as Siel Environmental Services, have showcased the potential for successful localized, impactful solutions. 

Siel Environmental is a social enterprise based in Trinidad and Tobago specializing in the areas of waste education and literacy programs for children and youth, waste courses and training and waste consultancy with a focus on food and organic waste. In 2023, Siel Environmental and Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago (YBTT) partnered to execute the first virtual waste management accelerator, which supported a third of the participants in the composting sector. Additionally, some forward-thinking governments such as Grenada are beginning to recognize the urgency of implementing policies to address food waste, signaling a positive shift. As of December 2023, a Biowaste Stakeholder Dialogue working group has been established by IICA in Trinidad and Tobago, and Siel is a contributing member of this group.

As a waste education, training, and consultancy social enterprise, Siel Environmental also works to bridge the gaps in education and awareness surrounding food waste. Through our targeted training programs, we aim to empower communities and businesses with the knowledge and tools to reduce waste at the source. Our pilot project, ‘Doh Waste Good Food’, serves as both an awareness building and an engagement campaign to drive the importance of food loss and waste. 

Our consultancy services are designed to assist small and large businesses in optimizing their operations to minimize food loss and waste, focusing on the retail and hospitality sectors. By identifying inefficiencies and implementing sustainable practices, we believe Siel is a catalyst for change.

Our goal is to inspire other aspiring BIPOC entrepreneurs by embodying equity principles. Siel, as a Black-founded enterprise, brings much-needed representation to a space that often lacks diversity. We leverage our experiences and work to inspire others through our mentorship program Virtual Waste Management Accelerator, and collaborations with organizations like WePlanet Inc. and Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago. Through our children's books and Eco Hero Club activities, we also harness the power of storytelling to connect with the younger generation.

Nevertheless, to effectively address the situation, engaging in collaborative efforts at a systemic level is imperative. Governments need to expedite the development and enforcement of comprehensive policies aimed at regulating and reducing food waste. Moreover, we should channel increased capital investment towards individuals and initiatives in the Caribbean region to offer essential support for scalable growth.

Siel aims to collaborate with government entities, businesses, and grassroots organizations to play a pivotal role in establishing a sustainable framework for managing food waste in the Caribbean. By cultivating partnerships and expanding our impactful programs, we believe we can be a driving force in turning the tide against food waste.

In conclusion, we cannot overstate the urgency of managing food waste in the Caribbean. Siel Environmental's multifaceted approach, coupled with a commitment to education, training, collaboration, and action, positions us as a transformative force in this critical space. Together, we can pave the way for a Caribbean that thrives in sustainability, resilience, and inclusive growth because as I always say, it is not always about doing things better, but sometimes we simply need to do better things.

Get In Touch With Siel Environmental

Siel Environmental Services Limited is a social enterprise specializing in waste education, waste management training, and waste project consultancy specializing in food loss and waste. Founded in 2015 by our CEO and Principal Consultant, Sian Cuffy-Young, we are laser-focused on our goal to transform the local waste landscape by delivering effective waste education, training, consultancy, and tools to countless consumers and organizations across the Caribbean and beyond.

Learn more by visiting our website or follow us on social media: Instagram and Facebook.

The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ReFED.

ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions to the problem. ReFED leverages data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilizes and connects people to take targeted action; and catalyzes capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. ReFED’s goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow.

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