A report published by the
It’s not just spoilt food that goes to waste but the good, fresh and nutritious kind; it simply doesn’t meet the standards of physical appearance that retailers think we want to see on the shelves, or fails to reach the consumer because of strict, and often over proscriptive, “sell-by” dates.
Most of the more developed countries in the world produce 3 to 4 times more food than their populations actually consume. It is not just food that is wasted, but also water, energy, fertilisers and labour. According to the IMechE report, 550 billion cubic meters of water are wasted around the world by growing crops that never reach the consumer.
There is also a significant environmental factor as 10% of the richest countries’ greenhouse
In the US, 40% of the food produced is never consumed, according to
In Europe, the situation is hardly any better.
However, global concerns over food waste are rising. In Europe, the major initiative is called “Fusions”, a 4-year program, funded to the tune of 4 million Euros by the European Commission, which hopes to learn more about food waste across the Union. As Tristram Stuart, who was awarded the 2011 Sophie Prize for his work on the
Nevertheless, the concerns go way beyond Europe; Tristram Stuart continued on food waste: “It is a totally global concern. I went to Malaysia last year for a conference on food waste. A group in Kuala-Lumpur wanted to organise a “Feeding the 5000.” There are strong food waste movements in Argentina, in Brazil; people in the Middle East are also interested in the issue. We do live in a global food system. The reality is that there is a global dynamic already, but there is no Kyoto conference on food waste.”
Although the concern is growing, there is still a long way to go to reduce the sheer quantity of food that is wasted every year, as illustrated by the figures. Indeed Jonathan Bloom has noticed that in the US, “the average citizen isn’t as concerned about reducing food waste as they are about recycling. Most people don’t think of food waste as an environmental problem.”
However, concerns for the environment and food waste are connected, as Stuart observed: “Increasing global food demand is the main contributor to deforestation internationally, for instance in South America, Central Africa and South East Asia.”
On January 22, the United Nations, including notably the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the UN Environmental Program, launched a global campaign titled
Lots of non-governmental organisations are developing interesting initiatives to improve the situation. Tristram Stuart launched in 2009, in London, the project
Moreover, Tristram Stuart and his team created a
The food waste issue has also inspired commercial projects, like food recycling. Simon Heaps, Director of the British company
There are multiple ongoing initiatives to raise awareness and stop the wastage of food but the easiest solution is as simple as eating the food produced. In Stuart’s mind: “The solution to that problem is nothing more complicated than eating food rather than wasting it; and the solution is, generally speaking, compatible with the business models of enterprises. It is compatible with the global recession when people want to save money.”
Some simple actions such as buying less, freezing more and eating up your leftovers, could save considerable quantities of food that would otherwise be wasted. Feeding the world’s growing population, when so many are, quite literally dying of starvation has to be a better outcome than good, wholesome food ending up in the dumpster.