Blog: I’ve been reading quite a bit about food waste and its impact on not just the global economy, but on our own expenses, as consumers, and it doesn’t look good. In fact, it turns out that we, the shoppers, and the food processors represent the largest two categories that generate the most food waste, with households leading by a landslide.
By Dan Orehov
According to a report available from the European Commission (EC), the Union’s 28-state members discard almost 90 million tons of food each year, of which consumers are responsible for more than half the amount. To make it easier to grasp how dire the situation is, this means that myself, you, reading this, and each of us living in Europe throw away over 170 kg of purchased and unused food every single year. Depending on which studies I’ve read, the conclusion is that households generate between 25% and 50% food waste.
In the case of processors, the second largest culprit associated with waste, the amount of throwaway food is close to 20 million tons a year and together with what we discard, this amounts to over 70% of the entire food waste in the EU-28. However, in the case of the food processing industry, there are already steps in place, meant to help reduce the quantity: from training employees to data collection and sustainable management strategies, a processor can, not just in theory, make the most of the raw materials used, so that waste is reduced.
What about us, the consumers? We are not part of a corporate structure that can impose rules and regulations on how much to buy and how to consume the food so as not to throw away half of it. But we are part of a society, so experts say that it comes down to two main directions that can help: government programs, both local and at country level, directed at educating people on how to minimize food waste, and the second – our very own approach to buying and eating habits and our social awareness of the harm we can cause, when overstuffing our fridge and then throwing our money away by discarding a lot of the contents to the trash can.
There is however a third component that contributes to reducing food waste: frozen food. Why? Because according to the Frozen Food Foundation’s recent study, frozen food generates almost 50% less waste when compared to ambient or chilled food consumed in the home. I don’t need to explain why, we all know that long storage life and precise portioning are some of the many benefits associated with frozen food. Basically, I buy a pack of frozen fruit, eat only what I need and store the rest of it in the freezer, something I can’t do with fresh for longer than a few days. It’s not rocket science.
I will conclude this comment with a couple of hard facts in the hope that we will better understand our own impact on the environment, by generating food waste: in the USA, over 160 billion dollars worth of food is wasted every year and 40% of all food produced is not eaten. The average American family, similarly to us in Europe, throws away between 25% and up to 50% of the food purchased; this means that every year, more than 2,500 dollars are pretty much used for nothing, by every single American. The situation is not different from the EU-28, where the total amount of money lost because of food waste exceeds 150 billion euro; and the list can go on.
So how much money have we lost yesterday by throwing food away? What about last week, or last year? I’m betting it’s quite a lot.