What is food waste? How does it take place? What are the right measures to solve this massive problem?
Almost 40% of the food waste is attributable to the US. Approximately 125-160 billion pounds of the entire food waste is not only edible but nutritious. Several factors contribute to food waste including processing issues, overproduction, and instability of grocery stores. Environmental factors such as weather conditions, labeling confusion, safety at homes and stores, and poor planning also account for the waste.
Food waste costs America a staggering $218 billion each year. Moreover food waste also leads to wasting other valuable resources including water, power, and farmland. America can easily feed over 25 million humans every year by reducing 15% of their food waste.
There are 2 broad categories to wasting food: food waste and food loss. Food waste results from half-eaten meals at home or commercial places. On the other hand, food loss comprises a larger portion of these global issues. It includes edible food which remains uneaten at stores and homes. Food crops in fields, spoiled food during transportation, and other such food products lost at any stage of production are food loss.
Generation Of Food Waste
Each point of the food chain like fishing and farmland, processing and supply, retail stores, restaurants, and households are a witness to food waste.
Farmland Food Loss
The US uses 15.7% of the entire energy budget for food production. 80% of the total freshwater is consumed, and 50% of the landmass is also used. Nonetheless, various reasons cause a loss of about twenty billion pounds of crops at farmlands every year. Farmers plant more than the demand in the market or more than the land can handle as security against weather and pests. A large number of crops are regularly destroyed owing to bad weather, diseases, or pests.
The capitalist forces often reduce the price, resulting in farmers leaving out the harvesting of crops at appropriate times, known as ‘dumping’. ‘Ugly produce’ from cosmetic imperfections, lack of proper refrigeration, and labor shortages also lead to food loss at the level of farming. Excess produce is encouraged to be given away for charitable purposes.
The latest study by the UN’s FAO (Food & Agricultural Organization) estimates discarding 8% of fish caught in fisheries of the sea worldwide. These discarded fishes are returned in dying or dead conditions which accounts for nearly 78.3-million tons every year. American research revealed that commercial US fishing boats dispose of 16-32% of by-catches. The highest rate of discard comes from tropical shrimps that are over 27%. Discarding causes food loss and causes an imbalance in the ecosystem.
Packaging Houses Negotiation
Cost limits involved in large quantities of sub-standard produce make it difficult for medium and small-sized farmers to send these secondary products to processors. This is mainly because houses that process the food must be willing to carry the huge costs that come with transporting the goods.
Animal fodder accounts for Almost 33% of food waste in manufacturing industries. Yet the amount of food loss at manufacturing facilities is so massive that even with these reusing methods, the process records a loss of almost 2 billion pounds of food. Technical problems, product damage, and overproduction are some of the other factors.
Loopholes in Transportation & Distribution Networks
Perishable food in developing countries is vulnerable to food loss. This is mainly due to refrigeration that is hardly reliable as well as a lack of infrastructure. Although the US does not face this challenge, lack of proper refrigeration is the primary cause behind discarded food. Short shelf-life is a big cause of foods turning into waste in the absence of another buyer or a proper charitable institution.
American retail outlets lost a roughly estimated forty-three billion pounds of food in 2010. It has now headed towards being a national emergency. 12.3% of US households became food insecure in 2016. Food that can rot and period of time till expiring are the biggest converting factors for retail stores. Supermarkets lost $15 million per year due to unsold vegetables and fruits, as per the USDA.
Overstocking, outward perfection, packaging, prepared food items, outdated seasonal produce, and understaffing are some of the important factors. At present, the United States recover just about 10% of its food waste. The capitalist practice encourages retail stores to discard expired items under the guise of it being a good practice.
Food Waste Generation
Restaurants & Institutions
American restaurants generate about 22-33 billion pounds of food waste annually. Institutions like hospitals, hotels, and educational institutes generate 7-11 billion pounds each year. Restaurants waste almost 4-10% of food before it reaches the table. Kitchen culture like large menus, improper ingredients, huge portions, all-you-can-eat systems, and cooking styles are the key drivers to wasting food.
The largest amount of food waste comes from households. It is estimated to be around seventy-six billion pounds each year. An average American waste 238 pounds each year that cost $1,800. At the level of consumers, the waste accounts for 19% fruits, 22% veggies, 20% dairy, 21% meat, and 31% seafood food waste.
Measures Against Food Waste
Public awareness programs by the Ad Council and Save Food Campaign and media coverage related to food waste have greatly reduced waste in the last few years. In 2015, the US Environmental Agency for Protection and the USDA had adopted central objectives. These are expected to reduce 50% food waste by 2030. A survey by the Ad Council showed that 6,700 adults informed the importance of food waste. America composts a mere 5% of its food which indicates that uneaten food is the largest civic solid waste component.
Every person must cook wisely and live in a sustainable manner. Setup a zero-waste kitchen. Making a grocery list beforehand and planning daily meals can add to the zero-waste target. If municipalities do not offer to compost, learn to compost inside your home. Several independent local organizations or nearby farms conduct drop-off food waste.