Taking Food Waste Off the Menu

We, as consumers,  in the Industrialised world have a big problem. We’re Wasters, big food wasters !

Food Waste comparison across the world

We waste much more food than our less industrialised cousins in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  We are suffering obesity growth while one in nine people are chronically undernourished in poor, less developed countries.

In Europe and North America, consumers waste almost a third of food produced. (good distribution, poor consumption behavour).  In Africa and Latin America most food is lost  before it even gets to the consumer (poor distribution but efficient consumption).

To confront this worrying food waste trend,  in Sept. 2015, the United Nations set a target of halving per capita food waste for retailers and consumers alike. They also declared war on food waste that happens along the path from plant to plate. The European Union supported this by publishing new guidelines to make food donation easier  without weakening food safety regulations. They also now measure food waste statistics more consistently across the 28 EU Member States. It’s part of the suite of action points in the EU’s initiative on the  circular economy.  The idea is simple:  make it easier for consumers and businesses to get maximum value and use from raw materials by encouraging the re-use of by-products at their highest functional level.

Of all the food produced in the world for human consumption approx 30% is lost or wasted. It never reaches the consumer! That’s approx 1.3 billion tonnes per year of food waste – with almost half lost in industrialised countries.

How can this be?

Unlike in African countries or poorly developed economies where distribution systems may not be optimal,  most of the food wastage in developed countries is at the retail or household end of the food chain (the final leg of the food path to your plate).

Who’s to blame?

Well, consumers are often blamed for poor purchasing decisions, bad food planning or simply managing household resources and budgets badly.

There are a whole series of factors that can lead to people wasting food.

  1. Discipline is key for Consumers. Planning meals better and smarter shopping must become the norm for all. This means sticking to shopping lists and being vigilant about supermarket tactics (offers,  layouts, bulk bundling to avoid falling into retail ‘traps’).
  2. Portion control is also essential. Maybe even use smaller plates to rightsize your calorie intake.
  3. Lack of Re-use , food sharing of surpluses and recycling of leftover servings

ZeroFood Waste- Landfill courtesy celestine-ngulube, via unsplash

So what can you do now ?

For brevity let’s just focus on one simple change you can make to your food consumption behavour – better meal planning.

Meal planning is one of the most effective ways you can save on your food bills. Start off by checking your fridge, freezer and store cupboard right now.  Ask yourself what you really need as you work out a meal plan for the week, and make sure you have everything you need and just the right amount. Then, before you go shopping, think carefully about what else you’re going to need for the week and write a list with quantities noted. That way you won’t shop for things you already have or buy too much. be especially careful to consume vegetables and perishable fruit as soon as possible after purchase.

Once a month clear out your fridge or freezer with the oldest dated food and perishables nearing their end of freshness date and plan a ‘Clearout menu’ for that day.   Why not write a menu for your ‘Clearout day’, with the words  ‘ Food Waste ‘ at the bottom.

Bon appetit !

– Zero Waste Alliance Ireland provides a Waste Audit and Consultancy service to Commercial sector and offers  state of  the art Aerobic Food Waste Digesters  (from 200kg to 5 tonne capacities)  through our preferred equipment partners.  Talk to us about becoming a Zero Food Waste organization.