Out of the 7.3 billion people living on Earth, an estimated 795 million are suffering from chronic undernourishment. That means that one in every nine people in the world is hungry.
These statistics are mind-numbing, especially considering that about one-third of all food which is produced worldwide gets lost in food production and consumption systems. That’s worth about 1 trillion US dollars. Around 40% of all the food that enters or is grown in the United States is never eaten.
Let’s put some of these food waste facts into perspective:
- The average American throws away 209-254 pounds of food each year.
- 30% of all food harvested never reaches the stores due to trimming and cosmetic reasons.
- 30%-50% of the food that makes it to the shelves is thrown away after purchase by shoppers.
- It costs $750 million per year just to dispose of the food we carelessly throw away.
5 Food Waste Solutions – How To Manage Our Global Problems
How can we as a human species afford to let so many people go hungry every day while wasting so much food? Believe it or not, the major reason why so much food ends up in landfills is us, the consumers.
Keeping Up Appearances
We have created certain cosmetic requirements for the food industry. As shoppers, we choose items that are more aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and we choose to avoid otherwise perfectly edible food due to a few small blemishes or odd shapes.
Certain shoppers would rather not buy the items which they need simply because they don’t pass the ridiculously high standards that we deem necessary. The reality is the majority of blemished food tastes no different than the “perfect” version of the same produce. We need to re-evaluate our standards and do our best to reduce this unnecessary food waste.
Unrealistic Portion Sizes
Another reason why so much food is thrown away is because our portion sizes are out of control. Since the 1960s, our plate sizes have increased by 36%. This has resulted in more food being left uneaten after it makes it to the dinner table.
Restaurants have adopted the idea of supersized portions as a standard, but we as consumers don’t always take the food leftover from restaurants home with us, resulting in even more wasted food.
Next time you visit a restaurant, make sure to take the leftovers home and snack on them the next day during lunch or have them for dinner the next night. No matter what you choose, you don’t need to throw them away.
Food expiration labels are also to blame for a large part of food waste nationwide. There is no standard system used to identify when an item will go bad, so we end up throwing items away because of serious confusion regarding expiration dates.
Some of us refuse to buy items that are mislabeled by a single day, which forces the store to dispose of them. In fear of lawsuits, many stores simply dump perfect items into the trash which are marked expired by one day.
Most of these items might still be good for up to a full week! If the government established a feasible labeling requirement, it would reduce our food waste drastically. In the meantime, remember to be mindful of the actual state of a product you are purchasing, regardless of arbitrary expiration dates.
Lack of Planning
It’s interesting to think that something as simple as planning your weekly meals before shopping could reduce food waste, but it’s a known fact that households that do this have significantly less waste than those that don’t.
When we go the grocery store without a shopping list in hand, we have a tendency to buy items we don’t need on impulse. Unfortunately, most of these items end up in the trash. We also buy things in bulk in hopes that it will save us a bit on our monthly food budget, but when these items aren’t staples that we regularly consume, most of that bulk purchase ends up in the trash as well.
Choosing to shop only for items we need and refraining from purchasing bulk sale items that are perishable can help to reduce the impact we have on food waste.
Lack of Awareness
Most of us are simply not aware that this is an issue. We go through our daily lives, consumed with work, family life, and our daily troubles without realizing that we are part of the problem. If no one can see the issue, then no one will act to correct it. Spreading awareness of our unrealistic expectations from the produce and food industry is a vital part of recovering from this unnecessary plague that we ourselves have created.
The consumer has the final word; if we start buying more imperfect items then less of them will be trimmed and cut during production. This ensures that fewer items are thrown away. If we choose to only buy the absolutely necessary items in bulk then stores will hold fewer bulk sales of perishable items, which again will reduce the amount of wasted food.
If we reduce our portions and choose to use the smaller plate then less food will go into the landfill. Planning your weekly trips and not overbuying will also remedy this issue. Be less sensitive to food labels and use common sense to check and see if the food in your fridge is spoiled.
Food waste is a big problem created by the wealthy society that we live in. We are all responsible for the amount of food we waste, and no one else. Using a meal plan during shopping will reduce waste on a home level, and it will also encourage you to cook at home and choose a healthier lifestyle.
Cut down on the number of times you go out to restaurants and choose to cook in together.
Not only will this save you some money, but it will greatly reduce the food waste you create. Above all, remember that this is an ongoing issue. You have the last say and you are the solution to this problem. We can all choose to do the right thing and reduce the food waste that we create.