Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Food Waste

The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food, creating more methane – one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change. Methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming. 
  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
  • Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
  • In developing countries food waste and losses occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain and can be traced back to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting techniques as well as storage –and cooling facilities. Thus, a strengthening of the supply chain through the support farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food –and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste. 
  • In medium- and high-income countries food is wasted and lost mainly at later stages in the supply chain. Differing from the situation in developing countries, the behavior of consumers plays a huge part in industrialized countries. Moreover, the study identified a lacking coordination between actors in the supply chain as a contributing factor. Farmer-buyer agreements can be helpful to increase the level of coordination. Additionally, raising awareness among industries, retailers and consumers as well as finding beneficial use for save food that is presently thrown away are useful measures to decrease the amount of losses and waste. 
  • In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water. (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008)
  • United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. Most of this (5.9 million tonnes or 88%) is currently collected by local authorities. Most of the food waste (4.1 million tonnes or 61%) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed (WRAP, 2008; Knight and Davis, 2007).
  • In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions.
We are reading in our daily spiritual readings about the poor and how starved they really are.  With all our efforts, we continue to fail to feed the people.  I know, we do a lot of good things but many of the world's starving people are not close enough to the food source to get it to them.

Having poor and starving in your own backyard, that's another thing.  Yes we have it.  The charities we support work hard at identifying these people and serving their needs.  The local Catholic food pantry feeds 300-400 families a week here in rural Ohio.

I pray we continue to narrow the gap because the amount of this food waste reported by FAO is troubling to say the least.  Don't waste the green on St.Patrick's Day or any day!

Ed Winkle


  1. There's quite a bit of waste between the farm and the store too, with stores and consumers refusing to buy fruits and vegetables that have spots or non-standard shapes. Well, not really a waste, as it goes to processing or animal feed, but a financial loss for the farmer.

    There's been a successful introduction of produce labeled under the generic name of "ugly veggie" here in France, in stores or street markets. It's a great way to get ripe fruits to make cheap but flavorful jam, for instance. A cucumber that's curved instead of straight is just as good and does not produce curved slices in the plate, lemon juice tastes the same if the skin is not perfect...

    They just started a similar scheme in Québec and Ontario with potatoes last week, and they plan to add apples soon. I think these are great initiatives. Hogs will complain that they get less treats though. ;)

  2. These are troubling numbers but not unexpected. The sell by dates on our food is so misleading and contributes to the loss of good food. Canned food is good for over five years from that date. Food thrown our from school lunches is shocking and partly to be blamed on requirements by government standards. Not good answers.

  3. Toronto study shows 40% of food is wasted/lost/spoiled . I know its a marketing ploy but a major supermarket chain in ontario has started a line of "slightly blemished foods" at a 30% discount . Odd shaped apples,potatoes,ect. As a child we wasted nothing ,scraps fed pigs and we had a burn barrel and about twice a yr. Dad would take it to the landfill , now many put that much at the road everyday .My mother who is 86 will still buy day old bread 1/2 price and bananas that may be off color,ect. as she never forgot her roots.Good article Ed. regards-kevin in Ontario

  4. The White House really encouraged the school problem this year in my opinion. It was bad before.

    I know several guys who got their start feeding livestock with thrown away food.

    One day I thought I would join them so dug a small pickup load of Coke out of the grocer's dumpster and poured it in the sprayer. My corn syrup was free for the taking that day!