Food waste: the basic facts

 

Today, approximately 1/3 of all food produced on our planet is wasted - either in transit (from field to consumer) or thrown by consumers buying too much and discarding the excess. That's a total of 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year (7.2 billion tonnes in the UK alone).

Why is food waste happening?

In developing countries, there are high levels of unintentional wastage, often due to poor equipment, transportation and storage.

In wealthy countries, high levels of food waste are caused by food being discarded by consumers who have bought too much or by retailers because it doesn't meet their strict aesthetic requirements. Household waste is a major contributor to overall food waste and the average household wastes the equivalent of £60 per month through uneaten food.

How does food waste impact the environment?

In total, the amount of food wasted globally represents 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted from its production (growing, harvesting, transporting, and packaging). To put that in perspective, if food-waste were a country, it would be the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China.

If we stopped wasting food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.

As we explore ways of controlling global warming, and whilst food waste accounts for such a great portion of our CO2 emissions, is it not a logical step to address reducing our food waste footprint more closely?

Eradicating un-necessary food waste would not only impact carbon emissions, it would have other benefits and knock on effects including world hunger, political stability and preservation of our natural resources. 

Deforestation is a large concern when addressing global warming. Forests play a critical role in regulating our climate and are the 2nd largest store of carbon (after the oceans). But when cleared and burnt – predominantly to grow crops - our forests turn from a carbon store to carbon-dioxide in our atmosphere. Large-scale deforestation can be prevented through better, smarter agriculture. While we waste 1/3 of food, we are required to grow 1.3 times as much as we need to feed the planet, all of which demands farmland, and thus putting forests at risk. 

Therefore the way we produce and consume food needs to change for the sustainability of our resources and future food supply. Currently we produce enough food to feed everyone on our planet today and the 2.5 billion more people to come in the next 35 years. Yet by the way its currently managed, one would never know. We have to waste less and feed more.

What's the solution?

At Rubies, we believe that in developed countries especially, we need to change our attitude towards food – to see it as a precious, natural resource that needs to be enjoyed and treasured. We need to re-address use-by dates, as well as planning and caring for what we have in homes, supermarkets and restaurants better. For developing countries, it involves looking at infrastructure to improve storage, transportation and communication around supply and demand / availability of markets.