Food waste! Even though it sounds like a small issue, it’s much bigger than what it looks like. 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets wasted each year globally, and the numbers are increasing. Consumers and retailers in developed countries throw 30 – 40% of all food purchased. Countries like Australia, USA & Turkey are the top contributors when it comes to food waste. An average person in these countries wastes approx. 300 kgs of food per year. According to a recent study, 66 tonnes of food get lost per second. By the time you finish reading this article, 15,840 tonnes of food will get thrown away globally.
The problem doesn’t end there. Throwing away food leads to wastage of resources used to grow, process, package, transport and market that food. Food waste is also responsible for the water crisis around the world. We can cater to all the water needs of the world by saving water used to produce the wasted food. According to the UN, we can feed all the malnourished people if the amount of food waste gets reduced by 25%. It also contributes to global warming, currently accountable for 8% of global greenhouse gas emission.
So, what can we do about it?
Food producers need to invest in better technologies. This will get them a better harvest and store food for an extended period without spoilage. For eg. Gescaser a Spanish company provides grain monitoring solutions. It lets you track the temperature and humidity of the stored crops remotely through a tablet. Consumers can avoid buying packaged foods and go with a more organic option instead. This will reduce wastage and pollution caused by plastics.
Food retailers can buy and sell those imperfectly shaped vegetables and fruits at a lower cost to reduce wastage. Governments can create markets where the food rejected by the retailers are sold at a lower cost. It will tackle the problem of fair wages to farmers and provide food at reasonable prices to the poor. For eg. In 2017 the Australian Government decided to invest 1.2 million dollars in Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) over 2 years. The goal is to put in place a strategy supporting food rescue organizations like Food Bank and Secondbite to tackle food waste effectively. Food if not fit for human consumption can be fed to animals in the poultry. Inedible food items can be used as compost which can work as fertilizers for growing plants.
Educating consumers about the effects of food waste plays a vital role in taking a step forward. Big supermarkets can use the leftovers from the supermarkets to generate energy by setting up a biogas plant. The government can create regulations to cut the wastage of food in various industries. They can also come up with incentive plans and tax benefits for companies that give away the food to the hungry rather than throwing it away.
Awareness about food waste is increasing globally. People are becoming more conscious of their eating and buying habits. We as consumers must push the governments and businesses to take preventive measures to tackle food waste. Together we can create a better future. Moving forward with this series we will discuss in detail what each of us can do to reduce food waste. Right from households to all the way up to the Government. Till then, cut back on food waste and enjoy!