On consumer food waste and sustainability
We waste a lot of food. In some places, we throw away almost as much food as we eat. In developed countries, consumers waste 222 million tons of food every year. That's the equivalent of 111 million cars or 40 million African elephants. It's a lot of waste.
Is it really a big deal? Yes! Here's why:
Fortunately, there are things both consumers and retailers can do to help reduce the amount of consumer food waste.
Pack it up
There are some new innovations that will help both retailers and consumers keep food fresh longer so that it has a better chance of being consumed instead of thrown away.
Tesco in the UK is trialing a new packaging which could double the shelf life of produce. It would give retailers more time to sell product before discarding it, and gives consumers longer to eat it before it goes bad. The packaging is bio-degradable, compostable and can be tailored to different types of produce which ripen and decay at different rates.
Also in the UK, Mark's & Spencer introduced a packaging strip that will help imported strawberries last up to 50% longer and may be used for other berries as well.
FreshCase is a newly developed vacuum packaging method that extends the shelf life of red meat ten times longer than store-wrapped meat and reduces the amount of packaging material by up to 75%.
Eat it up
Once food is purchased, it’s up to consumers to actually consume it but old habits die hard. And while sales are tempting, capacity to consume by the ‘best by date’ should always be considered. Innovative thinking and solutions can help reduce the amount of food wasted.
Going beyond our modern beliefs about food storage can help food stay fresh longer, making it more likely to be consumed. Korean artist Jihyun Ryou designed an innovative and beautiful wall-mounted food storage system that uses the science behind how food ripens and decays to help keep it fresh longer. A video about the storage system is below.
This PDF by the David Suzuki Foundation offers more tips for science-based food storage to help keep food edible longer.
In the restaurant industry, a project being piloted in Texas and New York could help reduce waste from larger than necessary food portions. Halfsies restaurant partners offer meal choices that allow their customer to receive a half-portion of the meal while still paying full price. Ninety percent of the proceeds are then donated to support the fight against hunger and food security across the globe, with the remaining 10 percent used to help fund the Halfsies program.
Everyone needs to take greater responsibility for food waste management: governments, restaurants, retailers, suppliers and consumers. Reducing food waste has far-reaching implications: from reducing the cost and number of resources needed to produce food at the beginning of the supply chain to money saved by households and municipalities for food that doesn’t end up in landfills.
Reducing the amount of food wasted by consumers can contribute to reducing some of the food security challenges we face. At the same time, these important changes in behavior can help support our drive toward a more sustainable future.
Image via Flickr user jbloom