Photo: Joe Hoover (Flickr)
A recent study from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examined the environmental impacts of food waste and found that food waste is responsible for the release of some 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year.
Uneaten food also accounts for a volume of water equivalent to the yearly flow of Russia’s Volga River, which has an average of 284,636 cubic feet coursing through it each second!
The economic impacts are alarming as well. According to the FAO’s study, $750 billion dollars worth of food go to waste annually.
Farm To Table
Food waste doesn’t just occur at the table. In fact, a whopping 54 percent of waste occurs in production and storage.
In Asia, high amounts of cereal wastage results in water waste and methane production. Meat wastage was relatively low worldwide, but contains a significant environmental impact with land use and carbon footprint, particularly in Latin America. High-income regions of Asia, Europe, and South and South East Asia were most responsible for vegetable waste.
That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s still time to turn the waste train around.
What Can We Do?
If people were to reduce their waste, however, less food would need to be produced to feed the hungry. The first step, FAO says, is to reduce waste at the production level by improving farming practices and balancing production with demand.
The second step would be to reuse food — donate edible food to those in need, use food not fit for human consumption for animal feed.
Augmenting recycling and recovery efforts will also be crucial. Composting food scraps, for instance, will help reduce methane emissions.
Anthony Fassio, CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute and Chair of Slow Food NYC, argues that a cultural shift is needed in how people view food. Rather than tossing edible parts of plants, like broccoli stalks, use the entire vegetable. Expand taste palates by trying parts of food often discarded, like pig innards.
Computer programmer and consultant Olive Lynch decided to recycle food waste by feeding it to black solider fly larvae that will become fish feed. She collects food waste from local restaurants, and what the flies don’t consume, she composts. Her goal is to have a large enough fly population to create biofuel.
How do you combat food waste? Be sure to share below in the comments.