Despite few people understanding its full extent, the global food waste crisis is one of the most impactful and pressing issues of the modern age. As a result of extensive methane emissions released by decomposing food matter, the way we dispose of our food continues to contribute dramatically to global warming and the climate crisis.
The food waste crisis is not unique to any one nation or continent. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the state of global food waste, how it impacts the planet, and how we can seek to make our futures a cleaner, greener place.
The Food Waste Crisis is Damaging Our Planet
While the first thing that comes to mind when discussing environmental damage is single-use plastic, the impact of food waste is perhaps even more catastrophic. When food is disposed of and left to decompose in landfills all over the world, it produces massive methane (CH4) deposits. When this gas is released into the air, it settles in the atmosphere for decades, trapping 35X more heat than CO2.
According to the EPA, one tonne of methane does approximately 25 times more damage to the climate over a 100 year period than one tonne of carbon dioxide. Considering how much effort the world is putting into reducing its carbon footprint, sustainability efforts must focus more of their energy on tackling the food waste epidemic
Although it’s important to cut down wasted food in landfills, methane production isn’t the only negative impact of throwing out our leftovers. Whether it’s a crate of eggs or a whole loaf of bread that makes its way into the trash, the entire manufacturing process behind that product also goes to waste. Watering, harvesting, packaging, transporting – all of that time, effort, energy and cost is wasted as a result.
Why Is There So Much Food Waste?
While world hunger continues to be an issue, the thought of 1.3 billion tonnes of food getting lost or wasted globally is an uncomfortable one. The most obvious reason for food waste is that people are simply buying or cooking more than they need, but there are plenty of other factors to blame too.
There are three general categories through which global food waste can be analyzed:
1. Food Waste in the Retail Business
The retail industry is a competitive market. Whether you live in a small town or a large city, shops and supermarkets are always competing to offer the best prices, sell the highest quality produce, and exceed their sales targets.
This capitalistic approach exists solely to increase revenue, but when it comes to environmentalism, the waste issue often gets put on the back-burner. Food that’s uglier in appearance or fruit that’s not quite the right shape is frequently discarded before it even makes it to the shelves, a huge problem when it comes to how many edible goods reach landfills around the world when they could have been eaten or composted.
2. Food Waste in Restaurants and Institutions
A UN report found that, in 2019 alone, 931 million tonnes of food sold to households, retailers, restaurants, and other food services was wasted. Considering this statistic, it’s important to recognize the impact of restaurants and institutions as one of the biggest contributors to global food waste.
Producing, cooking and selling food is obviously a huge market, but it comes with its challenges. Predicting how many plates you’ll sell and how many mouths you’ll feed on a daily basis can’t be easy, especially when uncontrollable factors like the weather have such a big impact on consumer behaviour. Restaurants, cafés, and other food-orientated businesses often over-order/under-sell, leading to mass amounts of wasted food scraped into the trash at the end of the day.
3. Food Waste in Households
17% of all food available at consumer level is wasted, according to a review carried out by the UN. Within this number is the food that goes to waste within our households, usually consisting of uneaten products or the leftover scraps on our plates. This happens for a variety of reasons, and to some extent it can’t be helped. With young children experimenting with new foods or buffets prepared for guests, you can’t always anticipate how much of what you serve will actually be consumed.
What people can control is how they dispose of their waste.
Food Waste Around the World
In the same UN report as previously mentioned, it was also concluded that food waste is indeed a global problem, and not just an issue caused by developed countries. While every nation creates waste through a range of different factors, the result is often the same: landfills full of decomposing waste and more methane pumped into the atmosphere.
While over-production or over-buying is often to blame in countries like America, Australia or European nations, developing nations have different issues to tackle. In Africa and Southeast Asia, for example, inefficient processing and drying, poor storage, and insufficient infrastructure are all instrumental factors in food waste. In Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest food losses are estimated to be worth $4 billion a year – that’s enough to feed 48 million people.
Lots of factors come into play across the globe, including:
- Food spoilage
- Date label confusion
- Poor planning
While every nation experiences and contributes to the food waste crisis in their own way, the end result will always be the same. Global warming and the climate crisis is not slowing down anytime soon and neither is world hunger.
On an individual level, there is so much more we can do to mitigate food waste.
What Can Individuals Do About Food Waste?
Households can take control of their own waste and recycle their uneaten food instead. While composting in the traditional sense can seem like a time-consuming task, new food waste recycling devices have simplified the process.
The FoodCycler is a compact, easy-to-use and odourless piece of technology that slots into any kitchen space, providing a quick and effective way of recycling food waste. By using an energy efficient cycle and eliminating methane emissions altogether, a FoodCycler is a great way to mitigate your household’s environmental impact.
People around the globe should aspire to have a cleaner, greener home, and with this handy food recycler, it’s easier than ever before to be kind to the planet.
That’s the end of our deep dive into the global food waste crisis. If you’re eager to make your mark and want to compost food waste in a simple and straightforward way, check out our website today and find out more about the FoodCycler.