If you ever ask someone, “how much food do you waste?” the proud answer would most probably be “almost none”. They would never guess that a European wastes 95-115 kilograms of food per year. Unfortunately, food waste has already turned into an epidemic growing at an ever-growing pace. The food wasted by the United States and Europe alone could feed the world three times over. Some of the reasons for food waste are embedded in the food production chain and require institutional change. However, a greater share of waste can be prevented by small changes in our everyday life.
Food waste – numbers beyond your imagination
A common yet generally unconscious cause of food waste is “unplanned shopping”. Although “planning” sounds like it takes all the fun out of shopping, it is imperative for effective and respectful use of food. Most of us shop for groceries without a consumption plan in mind: not thinking of when and how much to consume. However, a common result of unplanned shopping is over-buying – buying more than we can consume, leading to food waste and another factor mostly overlooked is when to consume. This generally results in perished or expired food – totally wasted. In wealthy countries, 40% of the food wasted is thrown out by consumers. A simple consumption plan (not anything fancy, but rather an overall outlook of the weekly consumption) before shopping can save millions of tons of food every year. There are many easy tips and tricks that can help you prevent food waste.
Another major reason for food waste is unplanned production. Unfortunately, roughly one third of the food produced in the world is wasted. In developing countries, 40% of the food is wasted while post-harvest and processing. In Europe, 185 kilograms of food per capita is wasted during production to retail per year. Approximately 140 million tons of cereals are wasted even before they are sold. Almost 50% of all vegetables and fruits produced are wasted and approximately 65% of this is wasted prior to consumption. Fish equivalent to 8 billion Atlantic salmon are thrown back into the sea, either because they are dead, dying or badly damaged.
The immense numbers of food waste not only underline the amount of food that can be saved, but they also highlight the amount of resources wasted. Resources used during food production such as water, land, energy, labour, capital and greenhouse gas emissions are squandered. 3.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere per year because of food waste. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land (28% of world’s agricultural area) is used to produce food that is wasted.