Food waste may not significantly impact on a minor level, but it is much more important on a larger scale than you may expect.
Food waste facts
Food waste is a concern on an economic and an environmental level. Labor, natural resources, and fertilizer are all used to produce uneaten food, resulting in a waste of resources. And if food waste were a nation, it would be ranked third in greenhouse gas output, behind the United States and China.
When wasted foods are disposed of in landfills, it releases a significant quantity of methane. Then, as food rots and degrades, it releases these hazardous gases into the atmosphere, which are 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the environment.
Food wasting is an unethical concern in our society. While one in every eleven people (about 690 million people) suffers from hunger, food is wasted globally at 1.3 billion tons per year, accounting for an estimated one-third of edible food products.
If we go back to 2015 estimates, the environmental benefit of reducing this kind of waste would be equivalent to removing one out of every four automobiles off the road for the whole year.
In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) presented a thorough summary of food losses and waste caused worldwide (Gustavvson et al., 2011). According to the estimates of Food Balance Sheets of 2011, the yearly worldwide amount of food waste created has a carbon footprint equivalent to 3.6 Gt CO2eq. (excluding land-use change).
Aside from the atmospheric hazard, food production uses a lot of water.
Agricultural water use accounts for 70% of global water consumption. By throwing away 1kg of beef, we are squandering 50,000 liters of water utilized in the meat’s production. Furthermore, 24% of freshwater resources and 23% of farmland needed to produce food were lost across the food supply chain in 2011, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (Kummu et al., 2012).
In 2009, the FAO estimated that the economic consequences of worldwide waste of agricultural food items, excluding fish and shellfish, were $750 billion. This estimate is based on producer commodity prices in 2009. After updating the numbers to reflect 2012 pricing, the FAO substituted producer prices for post-agricultural waste with market prices based on import and export trade in 2014.
Due to this calculation, the total monetary worth of worldwide food waste is $936 billion.
The United States alone wasted £13 billion worth of food in 2015, equal to an unbelievable (and foul-smelling) 7.3 tonnes of edible food in just one year. Food waste harms the environment as well. Food waste is responsible for about one-quarter of all artificial greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2012, an estimated 88 million tons of edible and inedible food were lost or wasted throughout the EU. According to the EU, this amounts to almost 20% of all food produced, with each generating up to 173 kg of food waste annually.
Edible waste is projected to have cost the EU-28 around €143 billion in 2012, based on the worth at each precise point along the supply chain where it was lost. Two-thirds of these expenses, or €98 billion, are due to home food waste. The food service industry accounts for the second most significant contribution, with a food waste cost of €20 billion in the foodservice sector.
As mentioned above food waste has an annual climate change effect of 186 Mt CO2 eq, and at the EU level, they account for over 16 percent of the entire carbon footprint of the food chain (Scherhaufer et al., 2018).
Each year, Australia wastes 7.6 million tons of food. And although 70% of this food is still perfectly edible, one in every six Australian people has gone a year without adequate food. In the same period, 1.2 million youngsters were hungry. Globally, up to 811 million people faced hunger in 2020, which is likely to climb dramatically due to COVID-19. In 2020, over one-third of the world’s population (2.37 billion) lacked sufficient food.
Almost every year, 10 million tons of food are wasted in South Africa, a third of South Africa’s 31 million tons of products yearly. Fruits, vegetables, and grains account for 70% of food waste. This occurs early in the food supply chain. Malnutrition will rise as the South African diet shifts towards processed food, but food waste reduction may enhance the health and well-being of most South Africans.
It is estimated that by 2050, Asia and the Pacific will have a population of as many as 5.2 billion people, which is around 60 percent of the world’s total population, based on the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s projections. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, underdeveloped nations in Asia waste 11 kilograms of food per capita, whereas rich countries squander 80 kilos of food per capita.
How to reduce food waste?
While we are wasting food, many people throughout the globe do not have access to enough food. According to the United Nations, one out of nine persons is undernourished. In addition, an increasing population means an increased consumption and an enormous need for processed foods. If we fulfill these demands, food production must grow by more than half by 2050.
In other words, there’s a long way to go until we’ve achieved our goal of decreasing food waste. But fortunately, there is a window of opportunity and potential for fresh ideas. According to Future Industry Insights in 2019, the global industry for food waste is valued at more than $47 billion.
Food waste reduction solutions have been proposed and implemented for several years. Recent literature reviews have called for further evidence on the efficiency of food waste reduction methods and the potential for such approaches to reduce food waste. Aside from that, little is known about how thoroughly food waste reduction measures have been evaluated regarding their economic, environmental, and social efficacy.
When it comes to food shopping, most of us don’t check our fridges and pantries first, which leads to the purchase of duplicate goods. We associate reducing food waste at home, especially in our kitchens, but what we put in our shopping carts is where it all begins. We tend to overbuy at supermarkets because they entice us in every aisle.
There is a term for overbuying at supermarkets: bulk buying. The term “bulk buying” may imply that you shop for food in bulk bins at a zero-waste store, where you can find unpackaged items. It may also mean simultaneously purchasing a lot of normal-sized packets or tubs of a product. But in this case, bulk buying refers to buying huge sacks or containers of a commodity.
Buying in bulk is one of the ways to reduce food waste. However, certain people do not enjoy it. Let’s discuss some advantages and drawbacks of each option.
It’s always best to verify what you have at home before grocery shopping. Shopping lists can stop us from purchasing stuff we don’t truly desire or need, saving us money in the long run. An even better approach is to make a list of all the goods and amounts you’ll need for the week’s meals, so check your pantry and refrigerator for things you already have, and then go to the store.
Remember to allow for leftovers and time off in your plans. In addition, creating a shopping list may help you save money by reducing the food you waste. Nevertheless, we cannot stress enough how important it is to create a meal plan and a grocery list before you go shopping!
Make a weekly menu
Knowing your habits and lifestyle is just as important as creating a realistic seven-day food plan. Prepare your weekly meal with caution. Buying additional products to encourage cooking is a wrong method that frequently leads to food and monetary waste. Be honest and realistic! Plan to order takeout on days when you don’t feel like cooking, or your life becomes too busy. Here are some meal planning suggestions to help reduce food waste at home.
- Examine your weekly waste – Are you an ingredient shopper who leaves fresh fruit soggy in the fridge? Or do you dump a week-old dish that’s beyond its prime? Identifying your food waste might help you become more resourceful and realistic about what you and your family consume. It’s okay if you buy pre-chopped or pre-made goods. Cooking from scratch every day isn’t feasible for everyone. Self-awareness is the key to happiness.
- Plan your shopping expedition – Keeping a shopping list is obvious, but we don’t always do it. Instead, list 1-3 meals you aim to prepare next week. List your ingredients and how much of each you’ll need. One cup of brown rice for a recipe? Get familiar with your grocery store’s bulk bins. This compartment may save additional items from rotting in your pantry, especially when attempting something new.
- Learn how to store foods properly – You may get home and store your bounty carelessly, not understanding how to preserve specific delicacies. Some items can be frozen, but cooled fruits and vegetables wilt faster. Whether you separate or keep your meals together, you may be able to extend their shelf life.
Store food properly
What can you do to prevent food wastage and spoilage? Proper storage. Adequate food storage may make a big difference in avoiding food waste. By correctly storing your food, you will prevent molds from growing on your vegetables and rotting fruits.
Raw and cooked food must be stored in different sections of the refrigerator.
Bacteria from raw food may contaminate cold-cooked food, and the bacteria can increase dangerously if the meal is not fully cooked again. The bottom of the refrigerator is the best place to keep uncooked food. It is best to keep cooked food on top of raw food to avoid contaminating it with liquids such as meat juices that seep down from above.
Food preservation may also help to reduce food waste. Drying, freezing, and fermenting are several ancient ways of food preservation. Bottling, sterilization, and artificial additives are modern methods used to preserve food. In addition, progress in packing materials has significantly impacted how food is preserved in contemporary times.
Pick ugly food and vegetables
Digging through a container of fruits, such as apples, until you select the one that looks the ideal adds to food getting thrown away in the long run. Although they are equal in flavor and nutrition, some unpleasantly looking fruits and vegetables are often disregarded in favor of more aesthetically beautiful food.
Because of the high demand from consumers for immaculate fruits and vegetables, supermarket chains are now purchasing only pretty food from farmers. As a result, a large amount of perfectly fine food is thrown away. To decrease food waste, supermarket chains such as Walmart have begun providing unpretty fruits and vegetables at a lower price to combat the problem.
Make a difference by purchasing somewhat defective vegetables at the grocery store, or even better, straight from whoever is growing and nurturing them. This vegetable is an example of a mature vegetable and should not be thrown away because of its age.
Understand food labeling
Just two of the numerous confusing terms firms use on food labels to tell customers when a product will most likely go bad are “sell by,” “expires on,” and “use by,” among others. Due to customer uncertainty over date labels, millions of pounds of food are thrown away each year.
Bob Brackett, Ph.D., CFS, Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology and spokesman for the Institute for Food Technology, discusses the distinction between “use-by,” “sell-by,” and “best-by” dates in the food industry.
The Use-By date is intended to guide customers on when to consume a product, primarily for quality reasons rather than because eating the item after the use-by date would make you sick. However, quality and safety may be compromised if the product goes beyond its expiration date.
The Sell-By date tells merchants when they need to get rid of it. This doesn’t mean the product is unsafe to consume after the expiry date.
The term “Best-By” refers to a date when the product should be eaten to maintain its optimal quality. According to Brackett, a food’s scent and taste aren’t reliable predictors of its safety.
Organize your fridge
Even if you have a fully-packed fridge, overfilling it with food may lead to wasting other food. Keep your fridge tidy to see what you have and when you bought it to minimize food spoiling.
You should also consider the First In, First Out, or FIFO approach. FIFO indicates that those recently purchased must be put at the very end of your stock, while the food left must be placed first so that they would be the ones who would be consumed first.
Keeping a log of spoiled food
Another simple strategy to avoid food spoilage is keeping a list of food items particularly susceptible to spoiling. This will help you identify what kinds of food to minimize or cut back to practice food waste prevention.
Freeze extra food
One of the simplest methods to keep food fresh is to freeze it. Many sorts of food may be frozen. For example, veggies that are a little too mushy to use in your favorite salad may be frozen to be used later in smoothies and other dishes. Food freezing has been an effective and traditional way to reduce food waste.
For sautés and other recipes, many herbs may be blended with olive oil and minced garlic and frozen in ice cube trays. Soups and chilis may be made in quantity and frozen as leftovers from a meal. With this method, a wholesome, home-cooked supper is always close at hand.
Leftovers are present on regular days but are more rampant every special occasion. Even though many usually keep leftover food from huge dinners, it is sometimes left behind in the refrigerator and thrown out when it gets spoiled. Keeping leftovers in transparent glassware instead of a nontransparent container will guarantee that you don’t lose track of what you’ve consumed.
Suppose you cook frequently and have a lot of leftovers. Set aside time to cook all the food gathered in your refrigerator. It’s a terrific technique to save food from going to the trash. This allows you to save money and have extra time in the long run. You can also ask for a leftover swap if you’re friends with your neighbors.
Make broth or stock
Making home-cooked stock is a simple method of using any leftover ingredients and another method of food waste reduction. Stir-fry vegetable scraps, such as the leftover meat, chicken, peels, and other parts, in a bit of vegetable oil or butter, until they’re soft, then pour water and boil until they’ve turned into a flavorful vegetable broth. Of course, scraps from the kitchen aren’t the only things that can be converted into delicious stock.
If you have leftover chicken bits or beef bones from your supper, stew them with vegetables, spices, and water instead of throwing them away to have a home-cooked stock that can potentially compete with in-store broth in terms of flavor and quality.
Eat the skin
When preparing a meal, many people peel off veggies and some fruits. You might want to hear this if you are one of those people.
The outermost layer of food and the skin of birds or hens contains various beneficial nutrients. Protein, Vitamin A, healthy fats, and Vitamin B are all found in chicken skin. Vitamins and minerals may also be found in the peeled apple skin and the pulp. Triterpenoids, a category of chemicals found in apple peels, have been discovered by researchers. Cancer-fighting properties may be attributed to their potent antioxidant properties.
The skin of a chicken is also a great source of selenium, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. But chicken and apple skin aren’t the only foods that benefit from these properties. Potatoes, carrots, mangoes, kiwis’ outer skins, carrots, potatoes, and mangoes may all be eaten and are rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s tasty, but it also saves money and decreases your food waste.
Eat the stems + ends
Instead of throwing the stems away, why not try blending them up and producing a nutritious smoothie? Blending the stems hits two birds with one stone because, besides providing your body with nutrients, it also helps prevent food waste. In addition, adding stem ends and peels to a smoothie may help you gain the numerous health benefits of fruit that might otherwise go to waste.
It is good to use greens such as kale or chard in smoothies since they are rich in fiber and minerals. Beet and strawberry tops are also excellent additions. In addition, fruit and vegetable peels, dry herbs, overmature bananas, and cut broccoli stalks, all of which would typically be thrown out, may be added to a healthy mix.
Eat the yolk
While most individuals have abandoned the low-fat diet fad, many still skip egg yolks in favor of egg-white omelets. The main reason to avoid egg yolks is that they raise cholesterol.
However, studies demonstrate that dietary cholesterol has only a negligible impact on cholesterol levels.
Eating eggs is unquestionably a high-cholesterol diet option. But they also contain helpful bioactive chemicals and other anti-disease elements. As a result, there are now fewer limits on egg intake in many health guidelines than there were in the past. Despite this, many individuals are still concerned about the health effects of eggs.
In reality, whole eggs are safe for most individuals, including those with elevated cholesterol. Egg yolks are also high in protein, vitamin A, B, and iron. Not a fan of egg yolks? Add them to various dishes to disguise their flavor. You may also use egg yolks as a hair mask; it’s really up to you to utilize it. Just avoid throwing it away.
Save the seeds
According to the USDA, over 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins are thrown away in the US each year. Carving pumpkins is a fun activity for the whole family, but there are ways to reduce the amount of vegetable waste created. Aside from cooking and baking with the pumpkin’s flesh, preserving the seeds is an excellent way to minimize waste and save money.
As a counterbalance to the nutty taste of peanuts, pumpkin seeds provide a nutritional punch. Foods rich in magnesium, a component vital to heart, blood health, blood pressure, and blood sugar control, are found in this meal. To maintain their taste and nutrients, wash and air-dry the seeds, then sprinkle them with olive oil and salt before toasting in the oven.
Lift your water
Due to their dislike of the taste, many individuals lack water in their system. Fortunately, there are ways to improve water taste while reducing food waste. Making water taste delicious is one of the most accessible strategies to boost your water consumption.
The peels of citrus and other fruits may be added to water or seltzer to give it a refreshing flavor. Adding dried herbs and fruit tips to your water container is excellent. Toss any remaining fruit or veggies into a healthy drink for a waste-free nutrition boost after you finish your water.
Mind the portions
Overeating is a problem for a large percentage of the population. However, it is possible to lose weight while also decreasing food waste by keeping your portions within a healthy amount. It’s important to be reminded that food waste causes major adversities to the environment, even if you don’t realize it. Reduce food waste by being more conscious of your hunger levels and by reducing your portion sizes, among other things.
Need another way of managing food waste and practicing food waste management? Try composting.
Food wastes are plants’ favorite energy source and can be transformed through composting. Today’s large range of countertop composting systems allows those who do not have room for an outside composting process to still engage in this beneficial activity. For example, residents in urban areas with houseplants or small herb gardens may benefit more from outdoor composters. In contrast, those living in rural areas with a spacious garden may benefit more from a countertop composter.
Pack your lunch
Eating in a restaurant or at your favorite fast food joint with your coworkers may be fun but rather expensive and contributes to food waste. Bringing lunch at work is a great way to reduce your expenses and carbon impact. The leftovers from your cooked meals at home may be packed up for a nutritious and filling lunch on the go. You can reheat those frozen leftovers to save some time, especially during breakfast. In this manner, you’ll have ready-to-eat, filling meals at the ready every day.
Save the coffee grounds.
The number of coffee grounds you create will be enormous if you need a hot cup to start your day. Even more, this byproduct has a wide variety of uses. For example, people interested in gardening may find coffee grinds excellent plant fertilizers. Nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium are abundant in the soil, which helps plants grow.
Coffee grounds are also a natural way to repel mosquitos because of their fragrant qualities. According to studies, dispersing old coffee grounds on lawn-like surfaces has been shown to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
Tailor restaurant meals
You can now order a pizza and choose which topping you want to include. For example, some don’t like pineapples on their pizza, while some quick melt cheese over mozzarella cheese. Choosing what ingredients you want for your meals is a helpful and great practice to reduce food waste while eating out.
The growing demand for self-expression and control in the American population fuels the rise of customizable meals. Restaurants that let patrons choose from their menus provide a low-cost way for patrons to be completely aware of what they consume.
Avoid using the tray
In a 2012 study, researchers discovered that not utilizing food trays decreased food waste in a university dining hall by 32%. Although food trays are convenient for carrying food from the counter to the table, it also contributes to people getting more food than they can finish.
Express creativity in your kitchen
Preparing your food can allow you to add various spices and condiments to suit your tastes. It’s an excellent method to recycle food leftovers when you’re testing new recipes in the kitchen and to utilize ingredients you wouldn’t typically use.
While the ends of garlic and onions may be used to flavor stock and sauce, adding stems to sautés and dry-roast dishes provides a great depth of flavor. An interesting twist on a classic dish is to make a fresh pesto instead of the traditional basil one using different veggies like broccoli stalks, softer tomatoes, withered spinach, or even fresh cilantro.
It is possible to save a few dollars by making your scrub or mask at home while also eliminating the possibly harmful substances included in certain cosmetic products. Due to the high concentration of essential fats, Vitamin E, and antioxidants found in avocados, they make an ideal addition to an organic or homemade face mask recipe for skincare. Using overripe avocados and a tiny amount of honey, you can create a delightful mixture that can be used on the skin or hair to nourish it.
A stimulating body scrub may be produced by blending leftover coffee grounds with a tiny quantity of sugar and olive oil and then rubbing the mixture over your skin. Puffiness and redness around the eyes may be reduced by applying chilled leftover tea bags or cucumber slices to the area.
It might be unsanitary for some, but donating extra food to others, especially the homeless and stray animals is okay. When you donate food, make sure that it’s not spoiled food. It would be too inhumane to cause others sicknesses such as food poisoning.
Teach kids to respect food
There is no better way to raise food-savvy children than by teaching them about the origins of their food. Take them to a local farm so they can see how farmers work hard to plant or produce food. You can also put up a mini-farm in your backyard and let them help plant vegetables or fruits.
This will make them realize that food comes from hard work and effort. They will recognize and respect the value of every food on the table.
Know your molds
Molds may cause allergic responses and respiratory issues in certain people. Furthermore, under the correct circumstances, a few molds create “mycotoxins,” deadly compounds that may make humans ill. Here, the USDA has provided a table for handling food with molds.
Any soft food that has mold on it should be thrown away. Mold may quickly develop under the surface of soft food due to the high moisture content. Also, bacteria can grow alongside it. Mold is easier to remove from hard foods, like cheese, than soft ones. Take a knife to the moldy area and chop it out. Mold tends to have a difficult time infiltrating hard or thick foods.
On the other hand, if the food is entirely coated with mold, it should be discarded. Likewise, if you come across molds on your food, avoid smelling it since it might trigger respiratory problems.
Water your vegetables
Even though it appears contradictory, storing chopped veggies in water is an excellent technique to preserve sturdy vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and celery after slicing them. If you want to keep them fresh for longer, always store them in clean, cold water.
Check your fridge temperature
The FDA recommends keeping your refrigerator at 40 °F(4°C) or below while the freezer should be at 0 °F (-18°C). Foods that need refrigeration should be put in your fridge as soon as possible, whether leftovers or new purchases. Over two hours, bacteria may quickly increase in perishable foods and put you at risk of foodborne disease.
When setting aside leftovers, it’s important to label the date you first consumed the food so you can track if it’s still good to eat. If you’re fond of storing groceries out from their packages, putting labels for the expiry date will save you from a stomachache while reducing food waste at home.
In conclusion, food waste is a significant and major global problem that requires everyone’s help to solve. It not only wastes valuable resources but also contributes to climate change. We can all reduce our food waste many ways, from being more mindful about what we buy to composting our scraps.
We can make a significant impact by taking small steps to reduce our food waste. So let’s all do our part to reduce food waste and make a difference for the planet!