Restaurants, hotels, food processing facilities, catering, and supermarkets all throw away vast amounts of food every year. In the US alone, more than 52 metric tons of food is wasted and dumped into landfills, costing the economy $218 billion annually, according to a report by ReFED. Globally, 1.3 billion tons is wasted. All this food rotting away in landfills is the third largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, according to the FAO.
The problem of food waste is complicated and occurs throughout the food value chain, which could make it challenging for governments to find an effective solution. Canada, for example, has been particularly slow in spreading awareness of food waste and implementing national strategies to combat the problem.
Some European countries, however, are making some encouraging headway in tackling the problem. France, for example, has banned supermarkets from dumping unsold but perfectly edible food, requiring them to donate the unsold food to feed the needy, thereby potentially saving up to 20 billion euros a year in national costs.
The Italian government is also aiming to reduce their food waste by offering tax cuts and other incentives to supermarkets and businesses who donate their surplus food.
While legislation may be slower to respond, corporations and retailers can play a significant part in reducing food waste by implementing some innovative strategies. According to Tristram Stuart, campaigner and founder of Feedback, Tesco now supplies only whole Kenyan beans after realizing that keeping these beans uncut extended their shelf life, made customers happier (because they preferred buying whole beans), and cut food waste down by 30%.
Most supermarkets tend to sell the most perfect-looking fruits and vegetables, presenting customers with only the most easily sellable products. In effect, many tonnes of perfectly edible produce are thrown away. It is imperative, therefore, to change the concept of "edible food”. Some startups have begun to sell “imperfect” produce to consumers at a discounted price, educating them that while this produce may not look as nice, they are just as edible as their “perfect” siblings found in major supermarkets. Others are taking unsold, but unexpired, food from retailers and restaurants and offering them to customers at a discount to prevent the food from being thrown out.
Ultimately, the most effective solution to tackling the food waste epidemic must be multifaceted and comprehensive, addressing wastage at every link in the food value chain.
The team at Worldwatch Institute suggests residents who live in neighborhoods that provide compost pick-up services to put all food waste into a compost bin instead of mixing compostable material with other trash.
When grocery shopping, customers should monitor how much they buy and only take what they can finish. Plan meals a week at a time and stick closely to a grocery list.
The issue of food waste is clearly an important one, and few entities can address it on their own. However, Fed is doing its part by working towards a zero-waste model. We are promising not only to eliminate garbage, but also help distribute the food we already grow to more people. We expect to save the equivalent of 30 per cent of our ingredients from heading to the landfills.
We are currently working hard to make Fed a reality, and are aiming to launch later in 2017. Sign up now for our mailing list to receive updates and early access to our meals.