food waste

Cracking down on food waste

Why does so much food get wasted and what can we do to reduce it?

Every day all around the globe, edible food is wasted. In fact, the world wastes about a third of all food that we produce for human consumption. To be more precise, the annual value of food wasted globally is worth a staggering $1 trillion USD, weighing in at 1.3 billion tonnes (news.nationalgeographic.com).

And the UK contributes greatly to this waste. On average, UK households throw away 1.96kg of food per day - this adds up to eight meals a week; a wasted £496 per year! Annually, we waste 6.6 million tonnes of food, with 4.5 million tonnes of that being completely edible - food that could have been eaten (wrap.org.uk).

The remaining 2.1 million tonnes are inedible things we can't eat, like bones, eggshells and teabags. According to WRAP, the amount of edible food wasted in the UK could fill eight Wembley stadiums.

Think about that for a moment. This volume of food could be used to do so much good, feeding the world's hungry and impoverished people as well as needy animals. In fact, if the world's wasted food was given to chronically undernourished people, each person would have 3,659 meals each year - that's 10 meals per day! (theecoexperts.co.uk)

Why and where is good food wasted?

•Up to 40 per cent of fruit or veg produced never leaves the farm. Instead, it's thrown away, merely because it is misshapen, discoloured, oddly-sized or marked and so does not meet the 'standards' of the marketplace.

•During transportation, large amounts of food 'goes off' due to poor refrigeration or storage.

•40 per cent of food is thrown by retailers and households because it has passed its use-by dates - in developed countries, this type of waste is the greatest proportion of food lost (bbcgoodfood.com). In particular, UK supermarkets throw 240,999 tonnes of food every year (wrap.org.uk).

•Cooked, uneaten food is binned by restaurants or households - 28 per cent of food is thrown due to personal preferences and another 28 per cent goes in the rubbish because individuals cooked, prepared or were served
too much.

Why and where is good food wasted?

•Up to 40 per cent of fruit or veg produced never leaves the farm. Instead, it's thrown away, merely because it is misshapen, discoloured, oddly-sized or marked and so does not meet the 'standards' of the marketplace.

•During transportation, large amounts of food 'goes off' due to poor refrigeration or storage.

•40 per cent of food is thrown by retailers and households because it has passed its use-by dates - in developed countries, this type of waste is the greatest proportion of food lost (bbcgoodfood.com). In particular, UK supermarkets throw 240,999 tonnes of food every year (wrap.org.uk).

•Cooked, uneaten food is binned by restaurants or households - 28 per cent of food is thrown due to personal preferences and another 28 per cent goes in the rubbish because individuals cooked, prepared or were served
too much.

\"Thrown-away food doesn't only waste the world's most vital resources, it also makes greenhouse gas emissions\"

What are the UK's most wasted foods?

•Bananas - 0.9 million each year

•Bread - 20 million slices each day

•Potatoes - 1.6 billion individual potatoes each year

•Milk - 100 million pints each year

Why is food waste bad for the environment?

Food doesn't just magically appear in our fridges and cupboards - it takes a lot of resources to get it there, including energy, fresh water, land and fuel (as well as labour).

For example, 65 billion litres of water are required to grow the potatoes the UK wastes at home every year, whilst 330 billion litres are needed to grow our wasted bananas!

(wrap.org.uk) With thousands of people around the world without access to fresh, clean water, and a water shortage predicted all over the world by 2030 (according to the United Nations' World Water Development report), to waste a single drop is a tragedy.

But thrown-away food doesn't only waste the world's most vital resources, it also makes greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the warming of our planet, leading to environmental destruction and a loss of biodiversity.

Food transportation is a big contributor, with air and water passage of food from far away countries using fuel and releasing CO2 and other warming gases. Rotting food that ends up on landfill similarly produces a lot of these harmful gases as it decomposes.

What are the facts?

Here are some shocking environmental stats:
•25 per cent of the world's fresh water is used to grow food that is never eaten (olioex.com).

•Each year, globally, an area the size of China is used to grow food that is never eaten (olioex.com).

•If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) after the US and China (fao.org).

•Over 25 million tonnes of GHG are emitted by the UK's food waste each year (wrap.org.uk) - that's 5.5 per cent of the country's GHG emissions and more than Kenya, a country of 53 million people (theecoexperts.co.uk).

•The tomatoes wasted by UK households each year have the equivalent GHG emissions as 51,000 cars (bbc.co.uk).

•The amount of bread wasted each year creates GHG emissions equivalent to over 140,000 cars each year (wrap.org.uk).

•If everyone in the UK stopped wasting food at home for one day, it would have the same impact on GHG as planting 500,000 trees (bbc.co.uk).

•Cutting down food waste is the top solution to the climate crisis, coming above electric cars, solar power and vegan diets (according to Project DrawDown, drawdown.org).

What is being done?

Globally, targets have been set to tackle food waste - the United Nations has set a mission of halving food waste by 2030.

Likewise, the UK government has promised to reduce food waste by 20 per cent by 2025 (a good start, but a small dent in a ginormous problem), offering businesses £1.15 million in funding to innovate new ways to deal with food waste.

In recent years, supermarkets have begun to do their bit across the country - in September 2020, Tesco became the first to team up with food waste sharing app, Olio (olioex.com).

Volunteers of Olio regularly visit Tesco stores that have food that is near its use-by date. The volunteers will post the collected items onto the Olio app for community groups and local individuals to collect.

Likewise, the charity FareShare (fareshare.org.uk) has formed partnerships with supermarkets including Waitrose and ASDA.

FareShare give away the food that supermarkets have but are no longer able to sell (due to expiry dates, damage to packaging etc) to people that need it - helping to reduce food waste and hunger at the same time.

How can we reduce food waste at home?

Globally, targets have been set to tackle food waste - the United Nations has set a mission of halving food waste by 2030.

Likewise, the UK government has promised to reduce food waste by 20 per cent by 2025 (a good start, but a small dent in a ginormous problem), offering businesses £1.15 million in funding to innovate new ways to deal with food waste.

In recent years, supermarkets have begun to do their bit across the country - in September 2020, Tesco became the first to team up with food waste sharing app, Olio (olioex.com).

Volunteers of Olio regularly visit Tesco stores that have food that is near its use-by date. The volunteers will post the collected items onto the Olio app for community groups and local individuals to collect.

Likewise, the charity FareShare (fareshare.org.uk) has formed partnerships with supermarkets including Waitrose and ASDA.

FareShare give away the food that supermarkets have but are no longer able to sell (due to expiry dates, damage to packaging etc) to people that need it - helping to reduce food waste and hunger at the same time.

How can we reduce food waste at home?

Try these ten ways to reduce your own food waste and to help combat the issue:

• Before you go food shopping, write a meal plan and a corresponding shopping list, only buying exactly what you need - this way you won't buy excess produce that will get left to go 'off'.

• Use your leftovers creatively - transform waste into new meals! For example, turn leftover vegan Bolognese into chilli, or roasted veg into a stew or curry.

• Utilise food waste apps - download Olio (olioex.com) or Too Good To Go (toogoodtogo.com). They help to connect leftover/surplus food with people that want it!

• Buy from companies that up cycle food waste or 'wonky' produce into new products - like Toast Ale (toastale.com), ChicP (chicp.co.uk) and Rubies in the Rubble (rubiesintherubble.com).

• Purchase 'wonky' fruit and veg - you can order online from OddBox (oddbox.co.uk), or pop into your local supermarket and look for their 'imperfect' fruit and veg. Most supermarkets sell this now, including Tesco and Morrisons.

• Freeze food you won't eat - including leftovers and surplus food (you can even freeze most plant-based cheeses and yoghurts if you need to).

• Learn how to correctly store your food - for example, cake goes stale quicker in the fridge, whilst apples and citrus fruits keep for longer when refrigerated.

• Make fermented foods with surplus fruit or veg - pickle cabbage to make sauerkraut or make kimchi using leftover cabbages, carrots, radishes, ginger and onions.

• Get composting - chuck leftovers onto your compost heap and let your garden reap the rewards at a later date!

• Learn the difference between 'best-before', 'sell-by' and 'use-by' dates - use-by dates are about safety. You can eat food until its use-by date but generally not after.

Best-before and sell-by dates are about quality, so you can eat food after this date, but it may not be at its best (food.gov.uk). So, don't throw away food if it's merely passed this date!

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.