Do you have a Tupperware full of leftover foods in the fridge? You felt guilty about throwing away perfectly good food, but now, no one has eaten it in days, and it will spoil in a few days. Once it goes bad, you’ll throw it away. Do you know when you throw wilted apples, moldy tomatoes, or bread in the waste, you also throw part of the fuel used to transport it from the farms to the storage house and from there to the supermarket? You also throw away the land’s values used to grow it. The ingredients that made up that bread, the heat, and the electricity that went into its processing and production also go to waste.
You might not think twice about throwing away food, but the effects of discarding uneaten and leftover foods are momentous. According to a UN report, nearly half of annually produced fruits and vegetables go to waste.
What is Food Wastage?
The loss of edible food either by spoilage or discarding is called food wastage. Food wastage includes the processing and production costs and resources, such as water, land, labor, fertilizers, fuel, and other resources used for cleaning, processing, and packing that food.
Most households struggle with food wastage. An estimated study estimated the total wasted foods to be more than 42.8 million tons in 2018.
What are the Effects of Food Wastage
Throwing away leftover foods impacts us in multiple ways.
1. Effects on Environment
The more food we throw away, the more quickly our landfills fill up. Food waste comprises 24% of the solid waste in US landfills. This decomposed food gives off methane. Methane is a foul-smelling gas with greenhouse effects that adversely reacts to the environment and contributes to global warming.
2. Effects on Economy
Food wastage sets back the global economy by $1.2 trillion each year. In the USA, the annual food loss is worth an estimated $218 billion or 1.3% of the GDP.
3. Effects on Society
Imagine 42.8 million tons of edible food going to waste while more than 870 million people worldwide face hunger and famine. According to the Boston Consulting Group, if people continue to throw away and waste food at the present rate, we will be throwing away 2.1 billion tons or $1.5 trillion worth of food in 2030.
Other Harms of Food Wastage
Throwing away perfectly e food means more than just the loss of money. With a food waste rate between 30 to 40% of the total food production, we’re impacting our country in more than one way:
- Without a healthy supply chain and food collecting services, we send edible foods to the landfills while the poor and homeless people are forced to sleep hungry.
- Food that can improve the insecurity in less-fortunate communities gets wasted.
- When we throw away food, we also waste the resources that brought that food to our home, along with the energy and resources required for processing, packaging, transporting, and storing the food.
How do We Waste Food in Our Homes?
Deliberately and in deliberately, we are guilty of contributing to food waste in the following ways:
- When we overbuy food items due to poor planning before grocery shopping, that includes not checking in advance that we already have a particular food at home.
- No one likes to eat a bruised banana or other slightly damaged produce, causing it to go bad.
- Some people commonly understand food labels, expiry, and best before dates. They only check the expiry once the food has gone bad, adding to the annual global food wastage.
- Perishable foods left on the counter for too long go bad after their shelf life expires. Poor storage expires food before due time.
- Some people tend to throw away the less-likable parts of products. Pizza crusts, pickles, and black Licorice are some of the commonly thrown away food items.
- If you don’t store yogurt and other similar foods in the refrigerator during summers, they will go bad after a few hours.
Why I Never Throw Out My Left-Over Food
Throwing away food is easy, but once you understand its ramifications, it starts to weigh on you, and you start thinking of ways to minimize food waste. Here are some practical ideas that help prevent leftover food wastage:
- If you have leftover vegetables from a meal yesterday, consider making a vegetable stir-fry, soup, or casserole.
- Your overripe bananas and wilted spinach will make perfectly delicious and healthy smoothies.
- You can make a pancake mix for yourself and your family by mashing overripe bananas and mixing them with egg whites and milk.
- The best use of chicken or beef leftover bones is to make bone broth. Healthy and delicious!
- Make vegetable stock by saving vegetable trimmings.
- Fresh herbs can be dried to use at a later time or frozen with water to add flavor and fragrance to meals.
How Can You Prevent Food Wastage?
1. Always Make a List Before Heading Out to Shop
Survey your pantry and the kitchen before heading off to the grocery store. Make a list by estimating what food items you’ll require for next week or month and shop accordingly. This also prevents impulsive buying.
2. Plan Meals in Advance
It is easy to miss certain ingredients when working and running a house and kitchen for your family. Planning out your meals helps you check if you’re running short on any ingredients, and then you can buy the same when you’re out. It helps minimize duplicate buying.
3. Stick to Smaller Quantities
It is always better to buy only those perishable items you will need during the following week. Staples like rice, nuts, and seeds can be purchased in bulk but take care to use them before they go rancid. Make more trips to the store but try using fresher items every week to avoid contributing to food wastage.
4. Don’t Throw Your Scraps
Banana peels are rich in protein and act as a wonderful compost for your garden. Egg shells, carrot peels, and potato skins can be composted too. Get yourself a compost bin and start collecting your peels to make compost. It improves soil quality and acts as a natural fertilizer. Additionally, it prevents filling up the landfills.
5. Discuss the Effects of Food Wastage in Your Home
Talk to your kids and significant others about the harms of wasting food. Involve them in all aspects of meal planning, list making, grocery shopping, and cooking, so they get exposure to healthy eating and food saving. Discuss portion sizes and encourage healthy eating.
These easy and practical ways can go a long way in limiting food wastage. Our world is struggling with a massive food wastage problem. Healthy habits start at a micro level, and the combined effort of the whole society genuinely makes a difference.
Remember that food wastage disturbs the already depleting natural and man-made resources, including land, water, energy, capital, and labor, resulting in needless greenhouse gasses production and climate change and global warming.