Food loss and waste (FLW) is an enormous economic cost to businesses and society. It also has a significant environmental impact. FLW represents almost 60% of the food industry’s environmental footprint. Much of this waste and its environmental footprint is entirely avoidable. Food that ends up in landfill creates methane gas which is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Apples rot under trees due to labour shortages or low prices making it uneconomical for farmers to harvest. Surplus milk goes into sewers. Thousands of acres of produce are plowed under due to cancelled orders. Fish are caught then tossed back into the water to die if they don’t match the quota.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that significant action needs to be taken to avoid global warming above 1.5˚C by 2030. Tackling food loss and waste must be considered an urgent priority by all levels of government, industry and individuals.
All of us – from farmers to manufacturers, from producers to distributors, from stores to homes – need to rethink how we view excess food and change our habits, so that people can benefit and an environmental crisis can be avoided.
As consumers, we also play a part: we shop ‘Buy one get one free’ deals but let the second item spoil because we didn’t need it; a product passes its best before date and we throw it away because we think it’s not edible; we expect abundant portions when we dine out but don’t finish our meals.
Due to product dating practices that have no correlation to food safety, perfectly good foods and beverages go to landfill rather than being donated. This pattern is repeated at retail: fresh bread is thrown into garbage bins at the end of the day along with tubs of yogurt that are a few days shy of their best before date and blemished fruit that is still edible.