How to Deal with the Problem of Food Waste
Compared to materials such as plastic, food waste doesn’t sound like the biggest problem. After all, food decays whereas something like plastic doesn’t. But this isn’t the whole picture — not only does rotting food release an excess of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but it also represents wasted resources in its production and transportation.
So, what can be done to deal with the problem of food waste?
According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN, roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption each year is wasted. That’s around 1.3 billion tons. For industrialized countries, this amounts to $680 billion wasted and a further $310 billion in developing countries.
Fruit and vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food. Around 30% of cereals are lost each year, 40-50% of root crops, fruits and vegetables and about 35% of meat, fish and dairy. The food currently wasted in Europe, for example, could feed 200 million people.
Dealing with the problem
Around the world, businesses are already looking to see what they can do to improve their wastage figures. For example, this guide to reducing food waste for restaurants has a look at how the hospitality industry can cut back on food waste. Many supermarkets are also putting plans in place to sell out of date but safe to consume food at a reduced price to stop it going in the rubbish.
But what about at home? What steps can we take to cut back on waste?
1. Shop smart
Often, we are drawn in by special deals that reward us for buying more, but when this is fresh food, there’s the risk that the extra purchases will just go to waste. So, it’s important to shop responsibly and only buy what you know you will use, regardless of the offers.
2. Look at portion sizes
Having the right size meal is important — often when we have too much food we either overeat or it goes to waste. If you prefer to cook in bigger batches, consider freezing extra portions for a quick-to-prepare dinner down the track. You can even use smaller plates to make a serving appear bigger.
3. Plan to use leftovers
A lot of leftovers can be reheated or made into something new and this is an important part of stopping food waste. Label things so you know how long they have been around and reduce the risk of them going off, and before buying more food consider what you already have.
4. Store food correctly
To get the maximum lifespan from food, store it correctly. Labels usually tell you where is best to store food so follow these directions to make it last the longest time. At the same time, especially with fresh produce, use your own judgement. If stored properly, many fruits and vegetables’ lifespans can exceed a date stated on the packaging. Often these dates err on the side of caution, and perfectly usable food can be classified as ‘Out of Date’.
Food waste is something everyone can help reduce with simple habits and awareness. There are only benefits for the environment and your own pocket, so the first step is knowing how easy it is to make little changes and reduce waste!