Inorganic waste gets so much attention today that people have completely forgotten about organic waste. The organic waste still accounts for the vast majority of waste, and it’s important to remember that this can be just as harmful to the environment as inorganic waste. According to research conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), organic waste accounts for approximately 60-80% of the total waste.
One of the major sources of organic waste is food. Food waste has become a global problem, with an estimated one-third of all food produced going to waste each year. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food wasted annually, which has a huge environmental impact. Food waste is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and uses valuable resources such as water, land, and energy.
There are many reasons why food is wasted, but some of the main ones include the following:
Poor Planning: Not knowing what to cook or not having enough time to cook can lead to buying more food than necessary, which can then go to waste.
Expiration Dates: Most people throw away food when it reaches its expiration date, even though the food may still be safe to eat.
Poor Storage: Food can go bad quickly if not stored properly.
Cooking Too Much: It’s often easier to cook too much food than to cook just the right amount. This can lead to leftovers that get thrown away.
So, What Can We Do About It?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has created a Think. Eat. Save campaign to raise awareness about food waste and what we can do to reduce it. Here are some tips on how you can reduce your food waste:
Plan Your Meals: Take some time each week to plan what you eat. This will help you buy only the necessary ingredients and avoid impulse purchases that often go to waste.
Store Food Properly: Store fresh produce in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home from the store. Proper storage can help food last longer.
Cook Only What You Need: When cooking, make only enough for one or two meals. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge or freezer for another time.
Compost: Composting is a great way to reduce your food waste. It’s easy to do at home and a great way to fertilize your garden.
Composting is perhaps the most important of all the major ways to reduce organic/ food waste. It not only helps reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills but also provides a valuable resource for gardeners and farmers. If you’re not already composting, we urge you to start. However, composting works only for large-scale businesses that can afford to start a composting center. If you are a small business owner, a restauranter, or someone in the food industry, here are a few ways to help you reduce your organic waste.
Track How Much You Waste: The first step to reducing your waste is to track how much you’re wasting. This can be done by keeping a food waste diary or using a food waste tracking app. For example, The EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge App tracks your waste and provides tips on reducing it. Similarly, the LeanPath App helps food service businesses track and reduce food waste.
Donate Your Surplus Food: If you have surplus food that is still edible, consider donating it to a local food bank or soup kitchen. Many programs can help you with this, such as Feeding America’s Food Recovery Challenge and The Food Rescue Alliance. These programs are specifically designed to help businesses donate surplus food to needy people.
Buy “Ugly” Produce: A lot of perfectly good food gets wasted simply because it doesn’t look perfect. This is especially true of fruits and vegetables. The next time you’re at the grocery store, consider buying some “ugly” produce that would otherwise be thrown away.
Support Farmers Who Are Working To Reduce Food Waste: There are many farmers out there who are working hard to reduce their food waste. They deserve our support! Look for farmers’ markets and CSA programs (Community Supported Agriculture) that sell imperfect produce or offer gleanings (the leftover crops that farmers cannot sell). By supporting these farmers, we can help reduce food waste.
These are just a few ways to help reduce your food waste. For more information on food waste and reducing it, visit the EPA’s or the Natural Resources Defense Council’s website.
When it comes down to it, Food waste is a huge problem. It’s estimated that we throw away one-third of the food we produce globally, which amounts to 1.3 billion tons of waste yearly. And approximately 40% of food in the United States alone goes uneaten. This has a major financial impact – the cost of all this wasted food is $218 billion annually. While we are busy throwing food, the percentage of the hungry population worldwide is on the rise. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, there are 795 million people who do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life.
While it may seem like a daunting task to reduce food waste on a global scale, there are things we can all do on an individual level to make a difference. And we need to act now!