Shocking Food Waste Statistics! How Can You Make a Difference?
The western world suffers from a bit of a waste problem. Our planet has put up a good fight and has appeared to be extremely resilient to the strains put upon it by us, its inhabitants. But now, as we are becoming increasingly aware, the planet we live on is struggling to keep up.
The boom in technology and population over the last 50 years has bludgeoned functionality, environmental health and standards of equality, globally.
The advances made in so many industries have moved too quickly for the pitfalls to really be addressed with any focus, these have accumulated and opened up gaping holes in the way some of our global systems work… the way we deal with waste is a big one. And as big as the waste issues of plastic, landfill and atmospheric pollution are; there is perhaps no bigger waste issue than the one that we have with food.
The way we deal with food not only has a huge environmental impact, it also has devastating human implications. It’s a problem, and we need to start dealing with it together.
Here are a couple of sets of statistics. Separately, they are pretty sad stats, and together they are confusing, maybe even mad!
- Annually, within the bracket of 35% and 50% of the food produced on the entire planet is never eaten. This waste of food is worth around £700 billion annually. No other industry on earth wastes as much of their product as the global food market.
- 1 in 9 people, that is around 800 million people around the globe, are either starving or malnourished. 25% of the food wasted in the western world would be sufficient to feed these people.
Those two paragraphs alone are enough to illustrate the size of the problem. It seems bizarre that in these modern times, there is such a huge discrepancy between resource and fair distribution. The hunger side of things is one side of the waste conundrum; the other side deals with the environmental impact.
The production of food requires land, a lot of it. The land mass that accounts for the amount of food we waste in a year is bigger than China. This land has been stripped of indigenous plant life, deforested, and depopulated of wildlife; all for food that will never be consumed. This food also accounts for a quarter of the world’s water consumption and requires labour, manufacturing, distribution, energy and packaging; wasted food = wasted resources.
If we are going to beat the planet up, should we not at least be making an effort to use the fruits of its labour responsibly? Tristan Stuart has some pretty cool ideas about how we can go about changing our global food distribution systems!
Of course, the big corporate and international systems in place have a huge part to play in this issue. However, the problem reaches right down to your very own bin in your very own kitchen. We often perceive these things as someone else’s problem and see our personal potential impact as minuscule. The thing is, domestic food waste in the developed world accounts for half of the world's food wastage.
The average UK family chucks out over 20% of the food they buy annually; that is about £700 worth of food per year. Of course, we can’t solve the problem on our own, the people in charge need to make changes. However, an alteration in the public attitude to food waste is essential, not only in regards to reducing waste but also to increase the demand for better standards and better technologies with which to tackle the problem.
How Can We Help?
It's not all doom and gloom; these problems are solvable! It will take a bit of effort, but substantial moves can be made by us all to fix our food waste shortcomings. Governments all over the world have begun to recognise the scale and significance of the problem and pledged to work with the global food industry to improve the practices of distribution and waste disposal practices.
As far as helping from our own homes goes, there are plenty of small habitual changes we can make in order to reshape our national attitude to food.
Here are a few simple things you can do to make that happen:
Plan Your Meals. The likelihood of you buying food that you don’t need if you go on your weekly shop with no plan is quite high. If you are pulling food off the shelves willy-nilly, then you will end up with waste at the end of the week. This is especially true when it comes to fresh produce such as vegetables and raw meat products. This not only adds to the waste issue, this means that you are just throwing money away! Get in the habit of planning your meals each week, only buy what you need. Your bank balance will look better, your waste will be reduced, and hopefully deciding what to eat will be much less stressful!
Leftovers. Don’t throw away leftovers! In fact, if you incorporate leftovers into your weekly meal plan, you will also spend less time cooking. A good habit to get into. Make sure you label them properly though… you don’t want to end up eating a two-week-old lasagne by mistake!
Donate. Sadly, food banks are a reality in the UK. If you do find that you have a lot of food piled up at the end of the week, just take an extra half hour to pop over to the local food bank instead of chucking it into the bin. It’s not hard, and it is appreciated.
Don’t Take Expiry Dates as Gospel. Many of us use ‘sell-by’ and ‘use-by’ dates with a degree of absolution. They are intended as guidance more than anything else. They are also extremely cautious, as to not incriminate the vendor if you end up with terrible food poisoning. Learn the natural signs of whether your food is still edible or not; a good rule of thumb is, unless it's growing something new or it smells weird, it’s probably fine!
Preserve. Preservatives weren’t always the reserve of farm shops and country fairs. We have been pickling, drying, curing and ‘jamming’ foodstuffs for thousands of years. If you have a glut of something why not try and preserve the stuff; you never know, it could be fun, and of course, it cuts down on waste!
We hope you've found this article useful and that it helps cuts down on all of our food waste - Even if only by a small amount.