Since I started my “crusade” against food waste I met many people. Some recycling freak like me, some other warmly moved to the cause, some of course, totally unaware of the phenomena. What surprises me every time though, is the little information that reaches the general public about a sustainable lifestyle towards food.
I live in Barcelona and I have to admit that most of the city is equipped with container to recycle plastics, paper, glass and even organic. And I see more and more good intentioned people carrying their 4 different trash bags to the location where the containers are. Still, most of the people I know, think that recycling is the best they can do to contribute to the environment.
However having a good percentage of the trash recycled is much better than have to dispose of it indistinctly. How may people know that Recycling is OK but Reducing is the key?
FAO published in 2013 a study calculating the carbon footprint of our food system, and the numbers deserve some attention. At least “one third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted from farm to fork. This is an astonishing value of 750 billion USD, equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland.” Along with the economic value this wastage has an enormous negative impact on the biodiversity, global economy and a major environmental impact.
The global carbon footprint of food wastage has been estimated at 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent. If the food produced but not eaten were a country it would rank number three in the world for greenhouse gas emissions behind US and China.
28% of world’s agricultural land is growing food that is wasted. This is roughly the size of China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan COMBINED!
250km3 of water is used to grow crops that are thrown out. This is the equivalent of all the water in the Vulga River. 250km3 of water is enough water to supply every household in world with water! (data source FAO,Food wastage footprint 2013)
And how many are aware of the direct link that food waste has on global hunger? I’m not an economist, but it is clear that as long as we waste the food we produce, we contribute to raise the demand for this food globally. Raising the demand means raising the prices with devastating consequences for third world and poor countries which are unable to buy those food on international markets.
In a world with a constant, exponential growing population, we will soon face the problem on how to grow enough food to feed all of us. By 2050 food production will need to be 60% higher than in 2005 (Alexandratos & Bruinsma 2012). It is evident that the system is failing and we need a change of route.
Making better use of the food and resources already available and reduce our consumption to real need, would help future demand with a lower increase of production.
Preventing food waste by reducing the amount of food we buy and make the best use of the one that is already in the house, is the best strategy to value the resources required for food production, the labour and avoid unnecessary disposal costs.
While this challenge is now taken more and more seriously by the public, private administrations and farmers, we as consumers have the power to boost this process on our own by modifying our every day behaviors.
The answer to this problem is often taking the form of social innovation. Information can be easily find on the internet and we are slowly entering a phase of new public policy addressing the problem. Raise awareness on the problem should be a task on every consumer’s agenda.