In a year, 1,300 million tons of edible products end up in rubbish bins around the world. The wasted food in Europe alone could feed 200 million people.
According to the recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Global food losses and food waste, one third of food products end up being discarded in good condition throughout the food supply chain process.
Of these, 900 million tons are discarded in the stages of production, distribution and retail; and the remaining 400 million at the time of final consumption.
On the contrary, the region with the least wastage is Southern Asia, with values of 150 kg a year per person. The differences between areas are seen in the kilograms of discarded food by the final consumer. The highest values are in North America and Europe, with 95-115kg a year per person compared to the lowest in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with around 6-11kg a year.
The figures, however, are high in every region if you compare each of them to the amount of food that is produced there, but they hide different patterns. While more than 40% of the losses in industrialised countries are found in retail and final consumption, in other countries they occur in the post-harvesting and processing stages.
Behind this wastage are reasons such as premature harvesting and a lack of facilities in less industrialized countries; overproduction, and reasons relating to consumption and to meeting the criteria of aesthetic quality in industrialised countries.
The book Waste- Uncovering the Global Food Scandal written by Tristram Stuart in 2009, includes research into the British cultivation of carrots which precisely analyzes the influence of aesthetic standards in the wastage of this food.
The conclusion reached by the author is that around 25 to 30% of grown carrots are withdrawn before they arrive at the supermarket because they don’t meet the criteria for colour, shape, size and lack of defects set by the distributor.
There are numerous consequences of this wastage. On the one hand, from an ethical and health point of view, resources are wasted that could be used to fight hunger and malnutrition which affects millions of people worldwide.
Environmentally speaking, its’ production wastes limited resources- such as water, energy, soil. To this, one must add the impact which wastage has on the environment and the air.
It is estimated that more than 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from industrialised countries derive from the production of food that is not consumed, and the decomposition of waste in landfills.
These impacts on the sustainability of the planet are likely to increase in the near future, according to projections by the FAO: if current trends of production and consumption continue, global food production would have to increase by 70% by 2050 in order to meet the food demands of a growing population.
From an economic point of view, it means a decrease in income for the producers and a waste of money for consumers and producers.
As well as dedicating this year’s World Environment Day- which takes place on the 5th June- to raising awareness of the problem, the United Nations has launched the campaign Think, Eat and Save. Reduce your Footprint, at the start of 2013.
Amongst its objectives, are raising awareness and promoting a change in attitudes in the retail and consumer sectors and the hotel industry, and to serve as a platform for the dissemination of good practice for responsible consumption.
In England, one of these initiatives is Love food, hate waste (www.england.lovefoodhatewaste), with tips for avoiding food wastage and recipes for cooking products that are about to reach their use-date and scraps.
The European Union (EU) has named the year 2014 as The European Year Against Food Waste, and this organisation and other authorities are considering changing the rules of expiration on certain foods in order to extend their life.
Smartphone apps such as The Green Egg Shopper or Grocery Gadget have been developed in order to help the consumer to organise and manage their shopping list, ordering products by their expiration date.
Leloca, designed for the hotel industry and the discarded food that it produces, includes special offers between 30 and 50% off lunch or dinner.
The food industry is working on creating active tags with information on the state of food and its nutritional values.
And before all of these initiatives, the Freegan movement – which originated in the United States in the 90’s- has stood as an active strategy against consumerism and waste, collecting and redistributing discarded food that is in good condition for consumption. (PL)
(Translated by: Rachel Sharp)