Food Waste and its Impacts
Although the issue of food waste seem insignificant, what harm does wasting a little food at every meal truly cause? In reality, this mindset is what leads to 1/3 of food produced becoming wasted or lost, totaling roughly 932 million tonnes of waste annually. According to UNEP, 570 million tonnes occur at the household level. These numbers alone are staggering; however, they become even more daunting when taking into account the 770 million people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. This is not only an issue of consumption waste but also highlights the implications behind it. It affects not only other humans directly but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of natural resources.
IMPROVEMENT: FROM FOOD PRODUCERS TO FOOD CONSUMERS
Reducing food waste is something that must be tackled at every stage within the food system, from the beginning of production to the end at consumption. State and local governments can help begin education campaigns or implement composting programs. Alternatively, they could provide tax credits to farmers who donate their excess produce. A little further down the line, farmers can help by using regenerative agriculture while food processors and manufacturers can use every part of the food and implement more efficient supply chain practices. Retailers can reduce waste by donating any excess to food banks and implement dynamic pricing. At the very end of the chain are the consumers, who can play a role by simply planning meals ahead of time, buying only what is needed, and using leftovers creatively. Lastly, technology also has a role in food waste reduction, things such as food waste tracking apps and smart packaging technology helps reduce spoilage and optimizes supply chain management.
TURNING FOOD WASTE INTO VALUE
There are many ways that businesses can actually re-purpose their food waste, allowing them to not only reduce the amount of waste but make sure they have gotten the most value. A prime example is when Soneva, a luxury resort operator, implemented policies centered around reducing their food waste production. The program they introduced aimed to raise awareness on the value of food, while tackling the issue if improper waste disposal. They allowed their teams of chefs and gardeners to innovate creative ways to reduce food waste. ranging from utilizing produce based on seasonality, establishing plant based restaurants, and training staff on permaculture principles so as much is recycled as possible. Integrating and placing emphasis on goals throughout the business process can lead to GREAT outcomes. The program Soneva implemented resulted in a 50% reduction in food waste, 100% of food waste recycled by composting, and waste to wealth generated $3 million in total.
Reducing food waste is critical for creating a sustainable and equitable food system that supports both human health and that of the planet. Tackling the food waste issue notonly ensures that what we produce is being used to the fullest, but would also be reducing our impact on the environment. Everyone can play a small but integral part in reducing food waste, with small and easy steps, eventually we can all reach a GREATer future.
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