According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1.6 billion tons of primary product equivalents of food is wasted globally; out of which 1.3 billion tons is the edible parts! This is an alarming situation for humans as well as the environment. Furthermore, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), wasted food accounts for 30 % to 40% in the United States. Not only this, the trend is almost the same in most of the countries around the world.
Why is Food Waste an issue?
Food waste means the waste of all the resources required to produce waste along with the environmental hazards associated with this. Global food waste accounts for 3.3 million tons of Carbon dioxide emissions globally. The water used to produce food which is wasted is 3 times the volume of Lake Geneva. Not only this, 28% of the world’s agricultural land which is 1.4 billion hectares is used to produce food which sadly gets wasted. A huge amount of wasted land could have been used to increase the forest cover of the world. Economic losses of food waste account for USD 750 billion, according to the statistics shared by FAO, which shows how big this issue is!
Although we cannot ensure zero-waste immediately, we can always try to minimize food waste as much as we can. This is therefore the responsibility of individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments to play their role in Food Waste Prevention. So, what are some of the actions we can take to prevent food waste?
Food Waste Prevention: Individuals
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a four-member family can save more than $2,000 by following simple food waste minimization strategies. Below are some of the ways which can help individuals minimize food waste.
- Order what you can finish
When you go to restaurants or order food online, assess your needs and order accordingly. In this way, you can avoid leftover food.
In case you are unable to finish all the cooked/ordered food, eat it sensibly so that if some portion is left, it can be donated to those in need. There are organizations that help match food donors with beneficiaries and you can look for such organizations in your area and request their assistance. Some of the organizations are 412 Food Rescue (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States) and Rizq Foundation in Pakistan.
- Feed Birds/Animals
This is a common practice in many countries to feed birds with leftover food and you can follow the same. Instead of throwing the leftover food away, feed it to birds. Birds can eat seeds, plant parts, scrap vegetables, even frozen corn or peas after they are thawed can be fed to birds. Apart from this, leftover baked potatoes can be fed to birds as well.
- Compost Food
After donating or feeding birds, if some of the food is still leftover, it can be composted. Composting is one of the best ways to minimize food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. You can learn a great deal about composting from the articles on the internet. The best part about composting is, you can compost almost anything that comes from the ground, for example, fruits and vegetables.
Food Waste Preventions for Corporates
We have seen that a lot of actions can be taken to minimize food waste at the individual level. Let’s see what can be done by businesses and governments.
Corporates can play a vital role in minimizing food waste. As they have the resources to take possible and required actions. Some of the actions that corporates can take or are already taking are as follows:
- Consumer Education
There is nothing more effective than imparting education regarding any issue. One of the most important actions that corporates can take is to use their influence to educate consumers. Companies can print their message on food packaging, for example, suggestions about shopping and meal planning, food storage, donation, and composting.
- Appropriate Packaging
Food packages can be designed keeping in mind the average consumption patterns of consumers. This can help in reducing leftover food. In addition to this, special packaging can be used to lengthen the shelf life of some food items.
- Supply Chain Optimization
Companies can use software solutions in order to optimize the supply chain process. In this way, products will reach retail stores earlier and this will increase their shelf time thus helping in minimizing food waste.
As food waste is a global problem, it requires effective policies and actions to solve this issue. For this, the role of government is very important. There are a couple of initiatives that can be taken by governments in this regard. Countries like Australia are already on their way to reduce their food waste by half by the end of 2030. How are they doing it? The Australian Government has invested in food rescue organizations as part of its Food Rescue Charity Program to help prevent food waste.
Similarly, some appreciable policies were implemented in France as well. In 2012, the French government made it mandatory for the private sector to recycle their organic waste if it surpasses 120 tons annually. In addition to this, it has banned supermarkets from discarding leftover food items. Instead of throwing food which is approaching best before date, supermarkets in France have to donate that food to charities and food banks. Isn’t it amazing!
Following the example of these countries, necessary steps need to be taken by developing countries to avoid food shortages for the marginalized communities and to reduce food waste.
Food Waste Preventions
Food waste is a serious issue and we need to take action now. Food waste prevention is going to help change the world and we are definitely going to be part of it. Not only do we need to be accountable individuals, but we need to take action and make corporations and governments do better.
Find out more about food waste and food loss in this article.