Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption annually is wasted. That is the equivalent of 2.8 trillion pounds of food, which could feed 40 percent of the world’s population. Even more problematic is that most if not all food waste ends up decomposing in landfills, where it gives off methane emissions, contributing significantly to climate change. In fact, it is estimated that, if global food waste was a country, it would be the third largest generator of greenhouse gases after the U.S. and China And while there is an increasing awareness about the volume – and preventability – of food waste, recent efforts have yet to make a dent in the amount of food that goes from farm to trash each year.
In Europe, governments have made huge strides in reducing wasted food. In February 2016, France forbade supermarkets from throwing away food, making large shops donate unused food to stop it from going bad. During the same month, Wefood – a supermarket dedicated to selling ugly and expired food that other supermarkets would throw away – launched in Denmark (ugly food being produce that has imperfections and would otherwise go to waste).
In England, Jamie Crummie’s app Too Good To Go (TGTG) collects food waste generated by UK supermarkets and saves edible food from being thrown away by connecting customers with food outlets that have excess food. In Leeds and other UK cities, The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP) has launched a series of cafe’s that re-use food that would otherwise go to waste, adopting a pay-as-you-feel model while educating customers about food waste. Also in the UK, ReFood and supermarket chain Sainsbury’s have partnered up to convert potential food waste into fuel, using it to power Sainsbury’s chains in some cases. In Germany, startup FoPo! uses ugly food to make dried powders that can be added to dips and soups, while the U.S.-based ReNuble produces an organic liquid soil and hydroponic nutrient from produce waste.
So how can we reduce food waste? First of all, disregard “use by” dates, which are somewhat arbitrarily set. Also, plan meals to ensure that what you stock in your fridge and pantry is what you use, and store your food properly to lengthen its shelf-life. Take home leftovers when eating out rather than letting them go to waste (unless you are so lucky to dine at a restaurant that donates its food waste). At home, find innovative ways to use leftovers and about-to-expire produce, and, last but certainly not least, compost your food waste when possible.
This infograph by InvestmentZen lays down some of the facts and figures associated with food waste and makes simple recommendations for how we can reduce food waste.
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