Food Waste – How Bad is it, and How can we Reduce it?
Whether it is because it is past its sell by date, or you just don’t want it, food waste is a global problem. About 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted worldwide per year. While some developing countries are struggling to feed everyone, around a third of the world’s food is left or spoilt before it is even eaten. It is bad for the economy, the environment, and the people.
Wasting food is bad for the environment, as all the energy and fuel used by the tractors to harvest crops, and the lorries, boats and planes used to transport the food to your plate is wasted if the food isn’t eaten. The pollution produced by these vehicles, and all of the factories producing things like fertiliser, and food for livestock is terrible. If the yearly emissions from food waste were represented as one country, they would be the third largest polluter is the world (after America and China). All the water wasted on crops is large, but livestock is worse. Annually, the amount of water used by food waste is about three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Producing one kilogram of grain takes 1,500 litres of water, while a kilo of beef takes 15,000 litres. This is why meat is very bad to waste.
It also is bad for the economy: your money is being wasted if you don’t eat all of the food you buy; the supermarkets are wasting money when their food’s sell by date runs out; and farmers waste money when the supermarkets don’t accept all of their produce due to strict standards – such as not accepting ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables. France has become the first country to penalise shops for not giving away unsold groceries. Our supermarkets should give more of their food past their sell by date to food banks, and people who need it.
A common misconception that many people have is that sell-by and best-before dates are when food should be chucked out. Sell-by dates are just when the shops have to sell the food, not when it is inedible, and best before dates just state when the food is at the peak. This is why shops are bringing in use-by dates. Generally it is just best to trust your senses, and just see how it looks, or taste a piece to check.
We shouldn’t allow one third of food we produce to go to waste when 870 million people go hungry every day, so here are some easy ways that you can waste less food. You should try to plan your meals at the start of the week, so you can buy only what you need for the week, rather than getting lots of food that you don’t need.
Also, freeze any extra portions of food you don’t need immediately, so that you can keep it for longer, and have a meal for another day. It is also easier to make double of a meal, and freeze the second half.
Don’t buy fruit in bulk just because it is on sale if you aren’t going to be able to eat it all – though if you do, cut it up and freeze it. The next day you can whiz it up with some milk and yogurt to make an awesome smoothie.
Ask for ugly fruit and veg in supermarkets – some supermarkets are trying it out, and others will start with enough requests; it is much better for the environment to not waste fruit and veg that looks a bit odd.
Cover up your food properly, so that it lasts for longer – always put a lid on things, even in the fridge.
Donate unwanted (edible!) foods to food banks, as there are always people around who don’t have enough food to waste.
And finally, if you can keep it up, try to keep an active list of all the things in your fridge and freezer, so things won’t get forgotten.
Overall, food waste is a global problem, and we need to act. It is a problem that we can actively help to reduce, but everyone needs to try to reduce the waste themselves.
By Rose, Beaconsfield High School
Images Sourced from Getty Images