We live in a world of 7 billion, where 935 million people go hungry, 300 million are obese and 1 billion people are overweight.
When food that could be eaten, used as animal feed, or transformed into compost, ends up in a landfill, we talk of food waste. Food waste occurs at all stages, from initial agricultural production (pre-consumer waste) to final household consumption (post-consumer waste). While in the rich Western world food waste often results from overproduction and is largely seen at manufacturer' and consumer' levels, the non-industrialized world's food loss originates in poor infrastructure such as food processing technology or transport infrastructure.
Global outlook at per capita food losses and waste in different world regions. Source: FAO, 2011
Directly related to affluence, “food waste is more a problem in industrialized countries”, most often caused by both manufacturers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in the impoverished South each throw away only 6-11 kg a year (FAO, 2011).
In the EU countries, consumers together with manufacturers are responsible for the largest share of food waste. Source: Andrea Segré 2012
According to a Greenpeace report, the food industry is responsible for creating up to 30% of the world's total annual carbon emissions. Just imagine how much land, water and energy would be saved, if all the food that is wasted was not produced or if it was evenly distributed to those in need. Statistics of Uncovering the global food scandal by Tristram Stuart reveal that the food surplus could feed as many as 3 billion people. We therefore do not need to produce more food, we need to waste less!
How wasted food is destroying the environment can be seen through work of renowned artists who call for consciousness. Just monitor how much food is going into your dustbin. Although much of the responsibility lies with food manufacturers, here is what you can do to achieve zero food waste on your side. After all, European and US consumers are responsible for the largest share of food trash.
- Avoid bulk shopping such as three for price of two and large packaging. Purchase only what you know you will eat.
- Eat less than you need to keep a healthy body weight. Obesity and overconsumption are part of your personal carbon footprint.
- Consume fewer meat and dairy products as their production carries largest carbon footprint.
- Opt for locally produced and seasonal food.
- Avoid food spoilage and make sure all food you buy gets eaten. Engage in creative cooking and invite friends for "a clear-my-fridge party" before you go on a trip.
- Switch to organic and bio-produce that requires no pesticides for production.
- Spread the knowledge of this absurd environmental damage and join the Food Waste campaigns.