Updated: Jan 1
What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word 'waste'? I'm guessing its somewhere along the lines of plastic, garbage, or landfills, am I right?
Well today I want to talk about something that probably doesn't get the attention that it deserves and that is FOOD WASTE. I bet that didn't come to mind when you first read the word 'waste'.
Approximately one third (1.3 billion tonnes) of food produced globally gets wasted each year.
Hunger, poverty and disease affect millions of people in our world today. 815 million people go to bed hungry and wake up the next day with nothing to fill their empty stomachs. And yet we grow and produce enough food to feed the entire human population. In fact the 1.3 billions tonnes of food that gets wasted each year would be enough to feed world's hungry four times over.
The cost of waste.
The full cost of global food waste, including environmental and social costs, amounts to USD 2.6 trillion. But its more than just money that gets wasted when we waste our food. Its resources. Precious resources. Its water, land, energy and labour. Its a huge unnecessary amount of greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere. 28% of global agricultural land grows food that is wasted, that's a total landmass equivalent to China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan put together. We could cover all the world's household water needs with the amount of water used to grow wasted crops - an amount equivalent to the annual flow rate of the Zambezi River. But you can't put a price on nature. On life. It is priceless, it is vital and it is all we have. Without this planet the human race wouldn't be possible, we would not be here if it wasn't for the water, the land, the birds, the bees and the apple seeds (anyone heard of Johnny Appleseed?). Its time we start realizing this and taking responsibility for our actions because there's only so much abuse and exploitation that this Earth can tolerate. Sorry about the sudden grim and rather depressing rant but its true!
But who's wasting all the food?
It's easy to point fingers but the truth is we all waste food. Of course it varies from country to country and where in the food timeline it occurs but food loss and waste is everywhere.
FOOD LOSS: loss of food at the production, harvest or processing stage
FOOD WASTE: the waste and discard of edible food at retail and consumer level
Not to differentiate or discriminate but the stats do differ between so called 'developed' and 'developing' countries. While both categories of countries waste more or less a similar amount of food the losses of this food happen at different stages in the food timeline. In developing countries 40% of food losses occur in the post harvest/processing stages. This can be traced back to financial and managerial implications, technical constraints in harvest and improper storage and cooling facilities.
In medium to high income countries (or developed countries) the losses happen a lot further up the food timeline. 40% of food losses are actually due to unsustainable retail and consumer actions and standards. From high food grade standards for import/export, to expiry dates, and the wasting of surplus food. In fact consumers in 'rich' countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
Blame gets you no where.
Again its easy to blame richer countries for the food waste issue, especially when most of food loss in developed countries is actually down to the wasteful habits of retailers and consumers. But blame will get you NO WHERE. Everyone wastes food and its an issue that we all need to address and a system that needs to change as a whole. With experts predicting that food production will need to increase by 60% in order to feed our population of almost 10 billion in 2050, its time that we start getting serious about food waste. We already produce more than enough food to feed our population and yet because so much of it is needlessly wasted we have people dying of hunger and starvation.
We need to become food-wise.
We need to start changing our habits, the way we look at food and our resources. If we operate in such a global way why aren't we thinking in a global way? We import and export, we trade and do business with countries all around the world and yet we don't think about those other countries or those other people when it comes down to our daily lives. We use and exploit so much of nature's resources and yet we don't think about the 15 415 litres of water that went into growing and raising that piece of beef on your plate or the 125 litres of water the grew that apple in your lunch box. We don't think about how much else we waste when we waste our food.
Action. Action. Action.
I love learning and I love writing/reading a good blog post or piece of information but I don't want to just be another talk show. I LOVE me some handy, useful and actionable steps/tips that I can implement in my own life to start making a change and creating a difference. That's why I've created a whole separate blog post dedicated to some top tips and tricks to reduce YOUR food waste! The article will be up on my blog next week Monday so stay tuned and watch this space!
Until then I wish you all a beautiful weekend and I'll leave you with a little portion of food for thought and a little something for you to chew on (pun intended!)
How much food do you think you waste and what could you do to reduce that?