Column: Life on Earth

This week’s topic: Food waste

By Mia Currie

Food waste is a far-reaching problem which has financial, ethical and environmental costs. There are a couple questions which need to be answered to understand this topic better. For example, what is food waste? 

Society has uttered the words “food waste” and “food loss” interchangeably for many years, but the words actually have different meanings.
1. Food waste are items that are fit for human consumption but are discarded
2. Food loss refers to resources which were lost in early stages of production 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), high- and low-income countries discard respectively 670 and 630 million tons of food per annum. Although the numbers may be similar, the sources of waste vary greatly. In low-income countries, food loss is more common than food waste. As stated by the website RESET, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 83 percent of food is lost during production while five percent is wasted by consumers. Contrasting this system, in North America, 32 percent of food is lost, and 61 percent is wasted by consumers. These numbers are shocking due to the fact that one of the biggest problems in the world today is starvation.     

Why has food waste increased so drastically in the past couple of decades?

According to the FAO, an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year. To put this into perspective, that is one third of all food produced by human consumption. Food waste is very closely linked to globalization. Similarly, supply chains are getting longer than ever before, and everything is available everywhere. There is nothing natural about being able to eat Indian mangoes in America or American apples in Indonesia year-round.

How we can help

There are many things we can do to help decrease food waste around the world. The two main ways are to share your surplus by donating it to your local food bank and ensuring that your fresh fruits and vegetables are eaten promptly. The second way is to turn waste into worth. There are many ways for us to recycle leftovers and ensure it does not simply get disposed of in the garbage. Find new recipes that incorporate miscellaneous products you find in your pantry and try something new. It is so important for people to become aware of this problem and try to minimize their impact on this already massive piling of uneaten food.