Food Waste

Food Waste

4 July, 2017
From Farm to Fork
Don't be mistaken—food waste comes in many forms

Did you know food waste contributes to around 7 per cent of the world's carbon emissions? There are 800 million starving people across the same planet where 2.9 trillion pounds of food is squandered every year.

If food waste created across the countries joined to make a nation, it would be the world's third-largest carbon emitter, just after the US and China.

Don't be mistaken—food waste comes in many forms. It's not limited to the leftovers we throw away. What adds to the list are the perfectly edible food items you throw out of your fridge; unsold foods near best-before dates that get thrown away from supermarkets; and the "ugly" food that did not make the cut in the post-harvest screening process.

1. Farm: post-harvest screening
In America, 40 per cent of a harvest is lost during harvesting, screening, packaging, transporting and storage due to inefficient processes.

Feedback is a UK-based organisation committed to reducing food waste created on farmlands. You can participate by donating or volunteering with their gleaning (collecting excess fresh foods from farms, grocers and restaurants, for example, and sending it to those in need) team to salvage thousands of tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables wasted on UK and European farmlands.

Imperfect Produce in the San Francisco Bay Area also delivers "ugly" food (that comes in imperfect forms) to your doorsteps.

2. Supermarkets: dumping unsold food
Last year, under CBC Marketplace's investigation, a Walmart in Canada was found to have thrown out 12 waist-high bins of food, which looked perfectly safe to consume and well before expiry dates, in one day. Similar situations apply to many other supermarkets, where tossed food doesn't go to those in need and isn't even sorted for recycling as it's thrown out.

The truth is, supermarkets are under the pressure of a "cult for perfection"—shoppers aren't willing to buy blemished goods that are in fact perfectly safe to consume. While changing people's perception and shopping habits is a long and arduous journey, supermarkets could donate their unwanted food products to those in need.

In fact, a law was passed in France in 2015 to prohibit large supermarkets from throwing out unsold but edible food and intentionally destroying items by bleaching to prevent "dumpster divers" from searching for food in dumpsters. Under the law, France's supermarkets are mandated to donate surplus groceries to charities or for animal feed use. It's an ambitious move to address the twin problem of food waste and hunger.

If the same law was enacted in countries like America, more than 43 billion pounds of food could be saved every year according to a 2010 statistic, a number that has most likely increased over the years.

Donate to the Real Junk Food Project and support its first food waste supermarket in Pudsey, UK.

3. Home: buying food in bulk
As our wallets grow fatter and our smartphones get slimmer, our fridges and plates get bigger. Statistics show that since the 1970s, the size of fridges has grown by around 15 per cent while dinner plates have expanded by 36 per cent on average since 1960. We long to buy fridges with more "storage" because then we can stuff more food in it in case of a midnight food craving. Sadly, more food gets thrown away because we may purchase excessively. When we feel guilty about that, we end up throwing it away with the excuse of food safety concerns. Research has also shown that we find food stored in fridges less worthy than food stored in cupboards.

That purchasing in bulk saves time, money and food is also a common misconception. Seeing discounts given upon purchasing in bulk at supermarkets also pushes us to buy more than we need.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says that "Americans throw away $1,600 of wasted food per year. Reduce food waste and save money".

A change in our attitude toward grocery shopping, such as by buying less-than-perfect produce, helps to tackle the food waste problem at root. If, in the future, consumers no longer resist buying "ugly" food, more imperfect harvests that come with minor blemishes could make the screening cut and less food will get thrown out.

Let's help to reduce food waste, from farm to fork.

By: Angela Ng


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