If you take a moment to digest the statistics around the amount of food we waste today, it can be pretty overwhelming. It is thought that around one third of the food produced around the globe is lost or wasted. Richer countries waste something like 222 million tonnes per year, in Europe and North America that equates to 95-115kg of food per person, per year. The numbers are truly shocking and should act as a wake-up call to us all.
In part, these startling figures are due to increasingly inefficient food production and distribution that sees waste as an inevitable by-product of a system that prioritizes quantity over quality. However, the fight to bring producers and distributors to account for the amount of food waste generated can often feel like a losing battle. Add this to the incessant warnings on how much waste is generated on a consumer level, and the war on food waste becomes utterly demoralising.
Perhaps then, it’s time to stop fighting the mountains of food waste and start thinking about effective food management. Here, we take a look at how better management of your resources can help you reduce waste generated at home and at your business, while alleviating the strain on a wasteful food production industry.
What’s in the fridge?
Before thinking about what you WANT to eat, take a look at what you HAVE in your kitchen. There’s an infinite number of ways to turn good ingredients into great dishes, and just because you’ve become accustomed to specific combinations doesn’t mean that your next favourite meal isn’t hiding behind a lonely tomato, aubergine, and piece of dried out cheese. Supercook can help you find recipes for the ingredients you have, and today, restaurants like Amsterdam’s Instock are turning food surplus into delicious meals.
Think global, buy local
Among the biggest issues facing the food production industry is the rapid globalisation of consumer tastes. Today, we’re used to getting what we want, when we want it. Whether that’s Costa Rican bananas in the dead of winter or pumpkin pie in the heat of summer. Both individuals and restaurants can easily help reduce waste through purchasing local produce (preferably organic) that is in season.
Not only does this support more sustainable farming practices away from the industrial mega-farms, but it also saves huge amounts of food that is usually wasted in transit.
Additionally, diversifying your diet or restaurant menu with lesser used fruit, vegetables, and even meats can help prevent monocultures, which can have a devastating impact on the environment.
Maximise the food you have
We don’t necessarily suggest putting onion skins and apple cores on the menu, but there’s plenty of perfectly good food that is still thrown out. Broccoli is a case in point. Usually, only the head of the broccoli is used in restaurants and at home, however, both the leaves and the stems can be both delicious and nutritious. Broccoli, for example, only produces one head per lifecycle.
This means that, if the rest of the plant is not used, more than 50% of the whole is wasted. The same is true of meat, and while it was much more common to eat offcuts in the past, today the practice has fallen out of favour. Put simply, making the most of food products across the board is critical when managing food waste.
Get composting and donating
Composting and donating food is particularly important for restaurants and individuals who produce large amounts of organic waste. Composting allows all non-edible organic materials to serve a purpose, rather than simply being left to rot in landfill. Donating, on the other hand, stops both prepared and unprepared food going to waste. Companies like RTS can help businesses draw up effective composting and donation plans and provide collections. For individuals, there are numerous platforms available online designed to help find a home for your compost or your surplus food.
As with any waste stream, reducing food and organic waste requires effort along each part of the production, supply, and consumer journey. Dealing with your personal food waste is one step forward, helping you to clear your conscience while minimizing your impact. However, pressuring producers and manufactures to make changes must also be a part of social and economic action, giving the biggest wasters on the planet little choice but to reduce wastage wherever possible.
The war on food waste is only just beginning, but with a little more awareness and a few simple changes to your everyday routine, you can make a big difference—whether that’s eating an overripe avocado to save it from the trash or lobbying the largest multinationals on the planet.