Zero Waste Scotland has found “food waste is actually a bigger cause of climate change than plastics”.
The research charity’s latest report revealed food waste collected from Scottish households in 2016 had a carbon footprint nearly three times that of the household plastic waste collected: Roughly 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) compared to 0.73 MtCO2e.
This is because, as food breaks down, it emits methane gas, which causes extremely adverse short-term environmental effects that are actually more harmful to the planet than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Wasted: The Australian situation
Here are a few facts to put Australian food waste in perspective:
- The average Australian household’s bin is made up of 35% food waste – we throw out $3,800 worth of groceries per household per year.
- More than 5 million tonnes of food ends up in landfills across the country – that’s 9,000 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of waste.
- It’s estimated food wastage costs the Australian economy $20 billion annually.
We truly are a wasteful nation!
Global food waste is out of control
Food waste is not just an Aussie or Scottish problem though. Approximately one-third of the food produced around the world is going to waste.
The calories within this wasted food could very well be enough to feed every starving and malnourished person on the Earth. Consider this: While one in nine people do not have enough to eat, almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced globally are wasted (that’s 3.7 trillion apples).
And, humanitarian issues aside, food waste’s effect on climate change cannot be dismissed either:
- Food waste causes 8% of greenhouse gases.
- Eliminating global food waste would save 4.4 million tonnes of C02 a year – the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road.
Plus, when we waste food, we also waste the resources that goes into producing, growing, and manufacturing that food. Did you know throwing away one meat burger patty wastes the same amount of water as a 90-minute shower?
Tips to reduce food waste
- Plan in advance and buy only what you need. Write a list if you struggle to remember!
- Try not to shop on an empty stomach – this can result in buying a lot of unnecessary items that may go to waste as our eyes are often larger than our stomachs.
- Freeze things! You can extend the shelf life of food and even leftovers by keeping them frozen and thawing out when needed.
- Get creative with leftovers and ingredients you already have. Sometimes you won’t even need to do the shop and might discover a new signature dish.
- Feed waste to your garden or your pets.
- Try a new form. Blending, boiling or baking produce that’s past the point of ripe can save it from the point of no return. Older foods can still be perfectly consumed in smoothies, bread, jams, stocks, soups etc.
- Stop body-shaming fruit and veg! Hold your supermarkets/food suppliers accountable. Choosing to shelve only the ‘acceptable’ looking products can result in stores throwing away incredible amounts of perfectly edible foods, simply because of slight ‘deformities’.
- Spread the word! Creating awareness and leading by example can be the most effective method for reducing the impact of food waste on our planet.
The bottom line
All this is not to say that our overuse of plastic does not need to be dramatically reduced.
In the words of Iain Gulland, chief executive Zero Waste Scotland:
“It is still vital that we continue to reduce plastic waste, which remains an extremely serious issue. But as more people ditch single use plastics as awareness grows of the wider impact of plastic waste, including pollution, we will send a strong message on the damage caused by binning leftovers and other wasted food.”
The takeaway message here is this: Plastic bags are not the only issue endangering the planet. It’s time our detrimental food waste makes the headlines!