As a human being, we have three essential requirements, food, water, and shelter. It is unfortunate that people today do not realise the importance of these resources and often take them for granted. The wastage of food, besides being hugely detrimental to our economy and environment also has many other implications.
This post highlights the lesser-known facts concerning the wastage of food. Through this post, we hope to inspire people’s efforts towards careful management of the food resources available to us.
Food Waste Facts
- The Magnitude of Wastage
- The Role of Development
- Impact on the Environment
- Misuse of Fresh Water Resource
- Awareness as a Cause
- Wastage and the Future
- The True Cost of Food Wastage
1. The Magnitude of Wastage
Many reports reveal that more than one-third of the food produced globally is wasted every year. Interesting statistics have been collected from a variety of sources to try and demonstrate the extent of wastage. Here are a few examples that will help you understand better;
- The food waste in rich countries is almost equal to the entire quantity of food produced in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.
- European and North American consumers waste a hundred kilos of food a year, which is significantly more than their average weight (70 kilos)
- 795 people could be fed using just a quarter of the food that is being wasted globally.
2. The Role of Development
While the majority of food wastage in developed countries takes place in the home, the case differs vastly in poorer, developing countries. In countries like Africa, the main cause of wholesale food suppliers waste is the lack of technology and infrastructure. The wastage usually takes place in the production of processing stages due to shortage or the inefficiency of facilities like refrigeration and transport.
The case of wastage is the same for many other developing countries around the world. Though they cannot afford to lose, circumstances in these countries result in huge wastage. To prevent or at least reduce wastage, researchers have found that paved roads and their capacity coupled with reliable electric supply and rail capacity are factors that could make a significant difference in preventing such losses.
3. Impact on the Environment
Wasted food does not just comprise a social or humanitarian concern but it is also posing a major threat to our environment. All the wasted food that goes into landfills and rots produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide and has a tremendous impact on climate change.
Studies show that food and drink wholesalers waste produces 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, leading to a steady acceleration of global climate change. It is believed that in the US alone, food waste generates 37 million cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions. Now try and imagine the greenhouse emissions in the metropolitan cities in India! If we were to take action, we could do away with 11% of the emissions that arise from the food production system.
4. Misuse of Fresh Water Resource
When we waste food, we also waste water and energy. Articles available on the internet reveal that 25% of the world’s freshwater supply is used to grow food that is never eaten. Considering that we waste one-third of food produced globally, that would account for 75% of freshwater available. Living in a world where cities are slowly running out of freshwater, it certainly is a worrying thought, isn’t it?
5. Awareness as a Cause
Many believe that fresh food is more nutritious than frozen food. However, you will find enough research to show that frozen food products often retain more nutrients. The only thing that is lost in the process is some amount of flavour.
Another common misconception is regarding the expiry date printed on food. Labels supported by packaged food can be misleading and it is important to know the difference between ‘best by’ and ‘best before’. ‘Best before’ indicates the length of time for which a food will be at its best quality but that does not mean that after that date it is not safe to eat. Many times, you will find people throwing out food that is still fit for consumption.
6. Wastage and the Future
Studies reveal that 2.3 billion more people will be added to our population by 2050. This would require a 60 to 70% increase in global food production. As the world’s population continually grows, we need to re-evaluate our priorities. The challenge here is not how to grow more food but to waste less of what we already have. Planning well and investing in good electronics can go a long way in reducing food waste.
7. The True Cost of Food Wastage
Renowned institutions from around the world have researched the costs of global food wastage. The Food and Agriculture Organisation and Forbes claim that 1 trillion dollars’ worth of the available food supply is wasted annually. In addition to this, there are several other costs incurred in the process of food wastage.
- 172 billion dollars’ worth of wasted water
- 42 billion dollars’ that are used in deforestation
- 429 billion dollars’ that arise from related greenhouse gas costs.
Besides the destruction of our resources, food wastage also accounts for 150 billion dollars’ of human health costs that arise due to the use of pesticides and also, 280 billion dollars’ in loss of livelihoods.
Food for Thought
If you believe that you alone cannot make a difference, then it’s time to think again. It is a fact that we convince ourselves to see only what we want to see. By justifying what we waste, we think we can rid ourselves of the guilt. But that is certainly not the way to approach a problem.
We hope that this article offers insight not just into the importance of proper food management but also spreads the message of sustainable living. Let us join hands to ensure a healthier future for the generations that follow ours.