Food waste is interconnected with globalization. Food waste is a huge loss for human beings and for our well-beings. One third of the world’s edible food is wasted every year and that’s set to grow as the global population does. Global food waste is an extensive problem with tremendous financial, ethical and environmental costs. We should teach the current generation the culture of life in every aspect, including raising awareness about food waste.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year. This number accounts for one third of all food produced for human consumption. The FAO states again that high and low-income countries discard similar amounts of food – 670 and 630 million tons respectively – but there is a difference in where and how that loss occurs. In low-income countries, loss occurs more often in the earlier stages. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 83 per cent of food is lost during production, handling, storage and processing, while just 5 per cent is wasted by consumers. On the other hand, in North America and Oceania, 32 per cent is lost in earlier stages and 61 per cent is wasted by consumers. Revealed by the World Resources Institute, those figures are alarming, but many of us are not aware of them and keep contributing to the problem.
Food loss typically refers to food lost in earlier stages of production such as harvest, storage and transportation. Food waste refers to items that are fit for human consumption but thrown away. During the journey from farm to table, food is lost or wasted at every stage. Fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables and meat are particularly vulnerable. When edible items are discarded, it’s not just food that is wasted. All the resources required to bring food at the table are also wasted. Food waste is destroying our beautiful planet and then abolishing the lives of many in the times to come. Today, we are facing 2 urgent environmental issues that could be raised by reducing food waste.
Water is essential to food production. Whether from irrigation, spraying, pouring or some other means, water is essential to the growing of agriculture, not to mention the feeding of animals that give us our meat, fish and dairy. 70 per cent of water is used for agricultural purposes. Water is one of Earth’s most precious resources and conditional for human beings to survive. One apple requires an average of 125 liters of water. That means throwing away a bruised apple is akin to pouring 125 liters of water down to drain. The numbers with meat are even more staggering: 15,400 liters of water for just one kilogram of beef. Meat products are the heaviest water users, simply because the animals drink a lot of water and much water is needed for the grain that becomes their feed. It takes about 8 times more water to produce meat than grain.
Methane and oil
Oil, diesel and fossil fuels are required to grow, transport, store and cook food. Harvesting machinery, vehicles and other machinery that is used to sort, clean, package and prepare food require massive amounts of oil. Wasting fuel and oil both at the production and at the decomposition end has a hidden but costly impact on the environment. The FAO estimates that the carbon footprint of food waste is 3.3 billion tons of CO2 per year. Not only are oil, diesel and other polluting fuels used to power production machinery and transport vehicles, but greenhouse gases are also emitted by food waste .
When food is thrown out, it begins to decompose or rot then releases methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas which many scientists believe adversely affects the earth’s climate and temperature. Methane is more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2. Methane accounts for about 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Less wasted food means we release less methane gas, which is better for the environment.
In order to save lives and those of the generations to come, we can each do a few things. We can help reduce food loss in handling, storage, processing and transport. We can share the surplus of food that we have. We can turn waste into worth. We can educate people. And finally, we can change consumer behavior.
Food waste is predicted to grow if we don’t do something about it.