Food Wastage And How It Effects The World
Food wastage is a subject that I am very passionate about. From childhood I was taught not to waste food and finish because there are people going hungry elsewhere. This has stayed with me and I will always keep my leftovers even if there is only a spoonful left because I can always turn it into a bigger meal.
It was only really at university where I learnt about the global issues of what food waste and what it can amount to. The environmental cost was never an immediate thought, it was always about the economic issues and how much money I could save. This is the same with most people because the environmental cost of food waste isn't highlighted as much as the 'money that the average household could save'.
To put this subject into scale, one third of all the food produced globally goes to waste. In the UK, 10 million tonnes of food are wasted each year! 70% of this comes from our homes! Because such a large amount comes from our homes, there is an amazing opportunity for each one of us to make a big and positive difference in the world.
In this Post:
I have included a bunch of links at the bottom of this post if you want to learn more about food waste.
Food wastage facts
The most wasted foods in the UK
Bread- Over 20 million slices of bread are wasted every year.
Milk- 3 million glasses of milk are poured away every year.
Potatoes- 5.8 million potatoes end up in the bin each year.
Apples- 1.3 million apples are wasted every year.
Main cause of food waste
In most developed countries, the majority of food waste comes from the home. Whether its due to foods being stored incorrectly or fridges being set at the wrong temperature it produces 70% of the total food waste.
Best before dates are also a reason for food waste. This type of food label is a show of quality but are sometimes confused with use by dates which is about safety. Foods close to or beyond their best before dates are then thrown away by retailers and customers when there is no need to do so.
Food waste doesn't just come from home but at every stage, from farm to fork. The retail stage also produces a large amount of waste, often because of safety issues such as sell by dates but this is also not the case on many occasions.
There is also this promotion of 'perfect' naturally grown foods such as fruits and vegetables. This leads to foods that, aren't 'perfect', in terms of shape, colour etc, being thrown away because we don't really like 'ugly' fruits and vegetables.
Problems with food waste
There are many different ways that food waste can affect the world. Around 1 billion people go hungry every day and they could be fed on less than 1/4 of the food waste in the UK, Europe and the US. It just shows that food waste squanders the food that could have fed someone less fortunate.
There is an incredible loss of money because of this issue as well. The average family could save £840 a year. But, not only does food waste money, it puts a huge strain on the planet.
When perfectly good food ends up in the bin, all the resources that helped bring it to our plates (water, energy, land etc) has gone to waste. This has a massive impact on the environment as these resources could have been used for something else or saved entirely, producing fewer greenhouse gases.
Staggeringly, if global food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases after US and China. By learning how to use up every bit of edible food, you will be doing your bit for the environment. We could accomplish so much if we all make little change to our habits.
4 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste
According to Project DrawDown reducing food waste is the number one solution to the climate crisis, even more so than solar power and electric cars. Below are a couple of ways to help you reduce your food waste.
1. Improper storage
Improper storage leads to a huge amount of food waste so make sure you rotate time sensitive foods in the fridge or cupboards so they don't get forgotten.
Many people are also unsure how to store some fruits and vegetables which can lead to food ripening too quickly or rotting. Potatoes, garlic, onions cucumber and tomatoes should never be kept in the fridge and should only be kept at room temperature.
2. Planning meals
Try making a list of everything you need before going shopping for groceries so that you know exactly what you'll need during the week. Making a list will also help you reduce impulse shopping. Planning your meals will also help you use up all the food that you have bought before going to buy more groceries and, in turn, help you throw away less food.
3. Ethylene gas
Some foods naturally produce ethylene gas which promotes ripening and could lead to spoilage. Separating these foods from foods that don't produce ethylene gas will help reduce spoilage. Keep the following foods away from ethylene-sensitive foods such as peppers, leafy greens, apples, potatoes and berries.
Foods that produce ethylene gas:
4. Freezing Food
Any surplus foods or leftovers can be frozen. You can even freeze fruits and vegetables that are getting close to their use by date which you don't think you'll be able to eat in time. Freezing foods adds an extra few weeks, or even months, to their life leaving you plenty of time not to worry about them going off.
If your leftovers aren't worth freezing (you only have a small amount) think of ways to add them to other dishes or use them as a side dish. Check out my previous post which could give you some ideas on how to use up your leftover chicken.
Food waste is acknowledged by most as an issue but many do not see the link of personal responsibility. The thing that most people link with food waste is the wasting of money. Few people make the link to environmental issues and climate change. However, fighting food wastage would have a larger impact on the environment than the change to electric cars or solar power.
For many, food is also a given but for a shocking 820 million people who go hungry, food isn't guaranteed. There are many establishments who are trying to fight this. One such is the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). They are fighting to reduce food waste to help create a 'Zero Hunger' world. Increasing peoples respect for the natural resources that goes into producing food as well as the farmers and the people who go hungry every day is one way that they aim to do this.
All of this can seem a little overwhelming and you may not know where to start! Don't worry, Rome wasn't built in a day. You don't need to try everything at once because that could get overwhelming. When you try to tackle everything at once you could lose your motivation. Try to make a commitment to keep up the good work. and make a little change at a time. A little change is better than nothing and each change can make a big difference.
Well done for making it to the end of the post! It's a hard hitting subject but every little change helps!
Let me know if you have been motivated to make any changes!
Why not share your changes with me over social media?