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By Clémentine Pons

The current agricultural system is not sustainable either to ensure a healthy planet or  global food security and health. The UN Food Agricultural Organisation estimates that globally, 1/3 of food produced goes to waste. In the US, 40 percent of their food supply goes to waste every year, it is similar to buying five bags from the grocery store and leaving two of them in the parking lot every time you shop.

Food waste is much more difficult to solve than food losses. Food that is lost during the harvest period can be reduced thanks to investment and budget, for instance developing infrastructure for storage and transport or efficient disease control.

Food waste on the other hand is more difficult to fix. At the distribution and consumption levels, profound changes are required on the individual and collective aspects in order to change the food industry and public behaviours. Food waste has been found to be responsible for 8 percent of the annual global emissions. The 8 percent includes the energy needed to ship, process and produce the food that ends up in the trash as well as potent methane fume that food emits as it decomposes in landfills.

The main issue of food waste is coming from how the consumer purchases and behaves when shopping. Better looking products will always sell over imperfect ones. The food supplier chains understand that one of the best ways to sell food is to give the illusion of abundance because people shop visually. In order to appear abundant, grocery stores often overbuy food to trick people into purchasing items. That excess leads to more waste. Overbuying can also be related to the ‘buy one get one free’ promotions or purchasing in bulk.

The other issue comes from a lack of clarity when it comes to dealing with expiration dates and spoiled goods. As a consequence, households throw out perfectly edible food well before it expires. In the United Kingdom, 2 million tons of food goes to waste due to a misinterpretation of the labels. To prevent edible food going to waste, the country attempted to replace the label ‘sell by’ and replaced it by ‘best before’; suggesting that food can safely be eaten after the date.

How To Help?

At the individual level, you can create a weekly meal plan to buy just what you need. The Feed Feed website proposes weekly meal plans depending on your type of diet. You can also use website like Eat by Date to truly understand whether your food has expired and then composting it instead of throwing it in the trash.

You can even get involved with groups like Food Not Bombs which have local branches all over the world that recovers food from local restaurants and stores and give it to those in need.

On the food supplier level, solutions like eliminating buy-one-get-one promotions, donating food that’s not fit for sale or using boxes and props to maintain the illusion of abundance. ReFED Is a multi-stakeholder non-profit committed to reduce U.S. food waste. It proposes 27 of the best opportunities or a ‘first-of-its-kind economic analysis’ to help stakeholders across the food supply chain to meet the national 50% reduction goal by 2030. It goes from ‘consumer education campaigns’ to ‘standardized date regulation’ and ‘trayless dining’. On the policy level, it means standardizing food labels to accurately reflect the science behind foodborne illnesses; educating consumers and expanding compost systems. Addressing food waste problem means tackling both climate change and hunger in the process

Max La Manna

is a zero-waste chef, author and presenter and worth to be followed on social media. He tries to inspire people through recipes to waste less food and ‘encourages awareness around the food we put on our plate, where it comes from and what happens when we waste it’.

Oddbox

is an online platform that fights food waste by proposing weekly vegetables and fruits boxes that can be delivered to your home. The website is working with growers and farmers and rescue fresh and seasonal fruits which are destined to trash because of their non-conventional shape size or because of a surplus of production.

Too Good To Go

is an App that connects establishments with daily food surpluses with people willing to save them in exchange for reduced prices. With over 9.5 million users and 17,000 associated establishments, this app has helped saved 10,092,382 food packs.

 

Food Packaging

From our grocery stores, markets, fast-food restaurants, online delivery orders to even the farmers’ market, almost all the food we buy is packaged and wrapped. The food packaging system contributes to make food safer, more reliable, stable on the shelves and hygienic. Unfortunately, most of those food packaging are not recyclable and often end up in waterways and landfills.

The United Nations has sounded the alarm and declared the plastic pollution in the ocean as a ‘planetary crisis’. Plastic bags for example are such a presence in our everyday lives that it is easy to ignore the damage they do to the environment. Plastic bags exploded in popularity after the 1960s for the reason it was marketed as a single-use product. The United States throw away 100 billion bags annually but only a fraction of those are recycled. The plastic bags end up in the ocean and can take up to 500 years to degrade. In the process, they slowly break down with the sun, water and microbial erosion and become smaller bits called microplastic which is disastrous for marine life.

Food packaging are made from a diversity of synthetic materials like glass, ceramic, metal or cardboard. All the plastic floating around the oceans is therefore incredibly harmful to animals. We have all came across pictures of birds found with stomachs full of plastics, turtles with straws stuck in their noses or animals with plastic bags and six-pack rings wrapped around their bodies. Ocean Conservancy claimed that “Plastic has been found in 59 percent of sea birds like albatross and pelicans, in 100 percent of sea turtle species and in more than 25 percent of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world.”

Ocean pollution is not the only consequence of the plastic on the environment. If the plastic packaging doesn’t end up in the oceans, it will be either discarded or buried in landfill or becomes litter that will be carried along by wind into the environment. In some cases, when they degrade, the chemicals from the material components can drain into groundwater and soil. The UN believes that the microplastics releases toxic chemicals like Bisphenol A -better known as BPA- in soil impacting the behaviour of soil fauna like earthworms and carrying disease and even enter the food chain.

 

How To Help?

Food packaging waste is not a problem we can solve with composting only.

As Anne Krieghoff, the recycling manager of the University of California explains, we need to apply “REDUCE, REUSE” over “RECYCLING”. You can use less plastic in your kitchen or reuse plastic containers, plastic bags or glass jars and consider alternative like beeswax wrappers.

You can also avoid plastic while grocery shopping by bringing reusable bags, choose paper bags over plastic bags and recycle them, select fruits and vegetables in bulk rather than pre-packed. Loop is a great online grocery platform which provides products in reusable containers that customers return for reuse.

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