All food generates greenhouse gas to reach our plates but almost a third of it gets thrown away or gets wasted. The term ‘food waste’ as defined by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Economic Research Service (ERS) is food that is discarded by retailers due to its colour or its appearance and food plate wasted by consumers. Leftover meals on the plate, food scraps from the preparation of a meal at home or in a restaurant, etc all include food waste.
Impact of Wasted Food on the Climate
Wasted food is not only a social or a humanitarian concern but an environmental one. When a person wastes food, he/she also wastes the energy and water it takes to grow it, harvests it, transports it, and then packages it. The food wanted ends up in landfills, it rots and becomes one of the significant sources of methane – potent greenhouse gas which has 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming. Growing and transporting foods that go to landfills emits as much carbon pollution as would 39 million passenger vehicles. Reports of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research say that the global food system is one of the largest contributors to climate change it is responsible for almost one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. According to an FAO report, the pattern of food waste can clearly be understood. It says that middle and higher-income regions show greater amounts of food waste during the consumption phase and the developing countries waste food more at the production phase and the reason for it is lack of proper harvest technique and infrastructure.
How Can We Tackle Food Waste
To reduce food wastage changes need to be brought in at every stage of the process in the production of food – from farmers and food processors to supermarkets and also individual customers. Government should prioritize balancing production with demand. This is an essential step as it translates to lesser use of natural resources in producing food that is not needed. Government should also put more effort into developing better infrastructure and better harvesting techniques. Big company supermarkets and restaurants can also reduce their foodprint by identifying where food waste occurs and then take steps to tackle it. In households major contributors to food waste include –
- Food spoilage – food not used in due time goes bad. Food spoilage also occurs due to a lack of a proper storage facility.
- Over preparing– people cooking or serving too much food is another cause of food wastage.
- Overbuying– sales on products often encourage people to buy products in bulks. Many times people in such situations end up buying more products than they need. This results in food getting spoiled before it can be used.
- Poor planning– buying food without planning or having a shopping list, consumers end up buying inaccurate estimates of ingredients. This can lead to food going bad before it can be used.