Waste Not, Want Not

Can you imagine the immorality of throwing food you’ve just bought into the trash? Just thinking about it seems paradoxical, but that’s what happens, far too often, in the rich West.

In January, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London published a fascinating report on food waste, entitled Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not, which looked at the situation in both rich and developing countries. For example, the report has calculated that household waste in the United Kingdom alone amounts to 7 million tons of food every year, worth £10.2 billion. On average, all this discarded food costs every family £480 annually, which over the course of a lifetime means a waste of between £15,000 and £24,000.

The report is most critical of the richest countries, where waste is greater and also more easily avoidable. The main problems the report highlights are the same as those given in many similar studies, and include impossible-to-finish super-sized portions, “all-you-can-eat” offers, the supermarkets’ refusal to sell slightly crooked carrots or blemished apples and consumers’ confusion between best-before and expiry dates.
Additionally, the report makes the point that this waste of food translates into a waste of water, land and energy. According to the researchers, if those 7 million tons of food were not wasted in the United Kingdom, the saving of the energy consumed to produce, package and transport it would be the same as removing 20% of cars from the country’s streets.

But as well as drawing attention to the waste correlated to the food we throw out, the report also shows that if we adopted a series of virtuous behaviors at an individual and collective level, and adopted appropriate solutions on a case-by-case basis, we would be able to provide 60 to 100% more food, while also freeing up water, land and energy. Slow Food believes we should be taking advantage of this opportunity, and is closely following the issue at a European level. Specifically, the international organization is participating in a work group on food waste coordinated by DG SANCO, which will meet for the second time on February 8 in Brussels.

Global food: waste not, want not

New Scientist, 14th January 2013

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