Food Waste, Shocking Reality! – you must know

“Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world and protect the planet.” – Tristram Stuart

Of all the food produced in the world, one-third is never consumed which equates to nearly 1.3 billion tons every year. 

At the same time, 815 million people are hungry and the global economy loses $940 billion annually from food loss.

Food decomposing releases Methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide (CO2). 

If it were a country, food loss and waste would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the USA.

In fact, according to experts from the University of Birmingham, lack of a sustainable cold chain contributes to £4.4 billion worth of fruit and vegetables being wasted annually in India. 

What is Food waste and why is food lost? 

Food waste is food that is lost during any of the four stages of the food supply chain:  producers, processors, retailers, and consumers. 

In the book Food Foolishauthors John M. Mandyck and Eric B. Schultz translate that statistic into relatable terms: “Imagine purchasing three bags of groceries. While driving home, toss half of one bag of food onto the road. That represents the loss that occurs during harvest, processing, and distribution. Arrive home and immediately toss the other half of the bag into the trash. That’s the waste experienced by retailers and consumers.”

Why is food lost?:

  • Farmers produce an excess amount in order to account for adverse weather and end up with surplus if conditions are favorable. 
  • Retailers’ high aesthetic standards for fruits and vegetables mean “non-perfect” produce might not even make it to the truck.
  • In low-income countries, limitations in harvesting technology can result in damaged produce or poor yield.
  • Consumers also waste food by buying more than the required quantity.
How is food wasted explained in food supply chain
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Food_Waste_Process.png

How Food Waste affects Environment : 

  • Growing food that goes to waste ends up using up 21% of our freshwater, 19% of our fertilizer, 18% of our cropland, and 21% of our landfill volume. 
  • This comes with a heavy carbon footprint as well. When food is disposed of in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Growing and transporting the food that goes to waste emits as much carbon pollution as 39 million passenger vehicles. 
  • The fact that we carelessly waste 33% globally means there is huge potential to reduce our environmental footprint. Big picture, energy, and transportation tend to be the face of climate change, but with food’s impact arguably larger it definitely deserves more of a focus.

Ways to prevent Food Loss

  • Harvesting only the required amount. 
  • Using modern techniques to prevent loss during the production stage due to pests and micro-organisms.
  • Some stores put effort into preventing access to poor or homeless people, while others work with charitable organizations to distribute food which is about to expire.
  • Building efficient storage and transportation facilities to prevent loss during storage and transportation.
  • At the individual level, sharing the surplus food with the people in need not only prevent food loss but provide meals to the needy ones as well.
  • Spreading awareness and education on food safety.
  • Working and finding the solution to the confusion created by date labels could also prevent a lot of food waste.
  • Not being perfectionist while buying especially fruits and vegetables, buying only ones which are good looking.
  • Shopping smart and buying only the required amount.

However, there are a lot of other ways in which we can prevent food loss, it just that we have to find innovative ways like building mobile applications to track food and prevent food loss, etc.

Ways to prevent food loss
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Food,_Don%27t_Waste_It.jpg

My opinion 

We do not have harsh images of an ocean overrun with food as we unfortunately do for plastic bags and bottles, but the damage is real. 

We need to recognize that food isn’t something that should be carelessly thrown away. The sooner we update our views and habits around food waste, the better off the planet and we will be.

I highly recommend watching this video on food waste by United Nations: https://youtu.be/7SqLz4O32vc

References:

  1. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/we-ve-woken-up-to-plastic-waste-is-food-waste-next
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/07/18/what-environmental-problems-does-wasting-food-cause/#3314d4de2f7a
  3. https://en.reset.org/knowledge/global-food-waste-and-its-environmental-impact-09122018

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Yash

Yash loves to read and write on issues such as climate change, renewable energy, SDGs, and other related issues. He wants to make people aware of climate change and encourage them to follow a sustainable lifestyle.

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