7 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

ven as we lament rising food prices, Canadians are throwing away $27B worth of edible food each year. And more than half (51 per cent) of this waste comes from Canadian homes, according to The Cut Waste, Grow Profit report from the Value Chain Management Centre (VCMC) in Ontario.

It’s certainly not a problem limited to Canada. South of the border it’s estimated that 40 per cent of food ends up in garbage bins, according to the US Natural Resources Defense Council. And the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reports that in 2011, nearly a third of all food worldwide was lost to waste. This translates to about 1.3 billion tons of food each year.

Why is this happening?

Consumer waste may have to do with a number of issues, including confusion about safe consumption and best-by dates, expectations for larger portion sizes, and cost savings when buying in bulk which often leads to over-purchasing, the VCMC report says.

Not surprisingly, large fridge sizes in North America also contribute to the problem. Many of us find it more convenient to make one big food shop a week, as opposed to several smaller grocery trips throughout the week — which makes it more difficult to estimate how much food we actually need. Large, overcrowded refrigerators also make it easier to forget about certain foods and lose track of best-by or expiration dates.

And when purchasing groceries, we often don’t anticipate spontaneous restaurant dinners, or ordering-in after a long day at the office.

Wasting food certainly affects the wallet, but there are environmental costs as well — mainly greenhouse gases to produce and transport food, and then to dispose of it. Further, methane, which is produced when food decomposes in landfill, is at least “20 times worse” a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, University of Guelph professor Ralph C. Martin told the Toronto Sun.

While much of the food waste in North America may be symptoms of affluence and abundance, many countries don’t have such luxuries.

“Most troubling about the massive volumes of food we waste is that it could help compensate for the needs of those who do not have enough,” the report says. Worldwide, about 860 million people are malnourished, according to research published by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

While consumers are the biggest source of wasted food, there’s loss all along the food chain, including on the farm, during processing, through distribution, at retail locations and in food service. The waste adds up to 183 kg per person annually, according to the report.

By Cynthia Cravit. To read more, please click here.