Food waste – what is the real cost?

Do we know the real cost of the food that the world wastes?

Approximately 14% of all fresh fruit and vegetables produced worldwide is lost, between the time it’s harvested and when it reaches the supermarket shelf. Fact.

Billions of litres of water are used in the growing process of the world’s fresh fruit and vegetables. But each year tonnes of this produce never makes it to the shops. This may be because its mishapen, meaning it can be refused by the food giants, because sadly, we’ve become a society that only accepts perfectly shaped food. In more recent times, this problem has begun to be addressed and some supermarkets have started to sell a range called ‘wonky’ – Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons are some who are leading the way.

The quality of fresh produce may be impaired during the process of transporting it to its destination, as this takes a long time, depending on which country it’s being exported from. Conditions need to be exact  to enable it to retain it’s optimum selling appearance, because it’s all about the way it looks for the average consumer.

Of the 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted globally each year, 3.6 million tonnes is from the UK alone, 66 tonnes per second! And, sadly, the highest proportion of this waste is fresh produce.

The monetary cost of food waste is $400 billion each year, but there are other issues relating to this other than financial. For example, did you know that if food waste was a country it would be the 3rd largest producer of carbon?

There are over 7.5 billion people in the world and over 10% of these are suffering from under-nourishment. How can this possibly be happening when we are throwing away tonnes of food daily?

In the past, vast quantities of food, either close to its useby date or which has already past it, is thrown away by retailers or us the consumers. Food is thrown away in our homes, in restaurants, cafes and fast food chains all over the world with no consideration given for the consequences. Over recent years this problem has begun to be addressed by excess food being donated to foodbanks, charities and volunteer run soup kitchens. Recently Milan were nominated for an Earthshot award and won for their Build A Waste Free World project. Supermarkets and company canteens across the city all joined forces to distribute the city’s food waste to the most needy organisations and it currently distributes up to 350kg of food each day.

Food lying in our landfill sites rots and gives off harmful greenhouse gases.

We must all address our behaviour surrounding food. Use up leftovers to make something else rather than throwing it away – be inventive. Search online using the words ‘how to use leftover…..’ Make a shopping list before your go to the supermarket, and try to stick to buying only what you need. Make a pact with yourself to stop throwing food away. We must all take steps to avoid the mountain of food waste. Because if we all do a little – we can all achieve a lot.

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