Madame Frigo's active cooperation with other organisations increases its impact.

of food is wasted. Globally. Resul­ting in unneces­sary CO2 emis­si­ons. In Switz­er­land, around a third of all edible food is lost between farm and fork, the Fede­ral Office for the Envi­ron­ment writes. That’s 2.8 million tonnes a year, the equi­va­lent of around 330 kilo­grams of avoida­ble food waste per person – a considera­ble sum. Twenty-eight per cent of Switzerland’s total foot­print comes from the food system, and a quar­ter can be traced back to avoida­ble food waste. Aware­ness of the problem has grown. On 12 May 2022, orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and compa­nies from the whole­sale and retail sectors, food service, the proces­sing indus­try and agri­cul­ture signed a cross-sector agree­ment to halve food waste by 2030.

Chan­ging the beha­viour of private households

Almost 40 per cent of food waste within the food chain – the biggest share by some margin – is down to the beha­viour of private house­holds. Madame Frigo is attemp­ting to address this by intro­du­cing commu­nal frid­ges. When Jana Huwy­ler, now presi­dent of the asso­cia­tion, saw the extent of surplus food that was wasted while she was working for a Lucerne-based cate­ring busi­ness, she deci­ded to take action and foun­ded an asso­cia­tion. That was back in 2014. There have been a lot of deve­lo­p­ments since then.

Simple and effective

‘Bring your lefto­vers from home and take what you can use,’ is how Mari­len Zosso, current mana­ger of Madame Frigo, sums up the prin­ci­ple behind it. Although, cruci­ally, there is no obli­ga­tion to bring some­thing if you want to take some­thing away. On the contrary: the idea is that all the food finds a new home and is not thrown away before its expiry date. Mari­len Zosso points out, ‘Our frid­ges are open around the clock and are available to ever­yone free of charge.’ Madame Frigo’s commu­nal frid­ges allow people to exch­ange food and play an active part in redu­cing food waste.

Frid­ges are making a difference

As well as enab­ling people to share food, enhan­cing sustaina­bi­lity, the commu­nal frid­ges are also helping to raise aware­ness. It shouldn’t feel normal to throw away food. Initial studies by students at the Univer­sity of Bern show that people are making use of the frid­ges. On average, around 30 items a day are exch­an­ged per fridge – equi­va­lent to four kilo­grams of rescued produce. That amounts to around 200 tonnes of rescued food over the course of a year. 


There are curr­ently 136 frid­ges in 15 cantons and demand is incre­asing. ‘Every other day, we get a gene­ral enquiry about the frid­ges, and one in five leads to a new loca­tion,’ Mari­len Zosso explains. Each appli­ance is over­seen by three to ten volun­teers. The teams orga­nise them­sel­ves and also make regu­lar food coll­ec­tions. The volun­teers ensure that the frid­ges comply with canto­nal guide­lines, check the food and clean the appli­ances. Indi­vi­dual respon­si­bi­lity is key.

More impact together

Madame Frigo actively coope­ra­tes with a range of diffe­rent orga­ni­sa­ti­ons that are commit­ted to a sustainable food system. These include orga­ni­sa­ti­ons such as, Orga­ni­sa­tion Foodsha­ring, Ässbar and nume­rous local asso­cia­ti­ons and initia­ti­ves. Madame Frigo’s mana­ger is deligh­ted to work with other orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. ‘Working with part­ners streng­thens the impact of the project,’ she explains. All in all, the project shows that inno­va­tive, commu­nity-based solu­ti­ons can play a signi­fi­cant role in redu­cing food waste in private households.

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