Roughly 33 percent of the food produced in the world never reaches the mouths for which it was intended. Wealthy individuals waste more than they consume and even more, food spoils during transport. Roughly $1 trillion worth of food is annually tossed needlessly aside—causing a burden on the environment. This fact is even more morally disturbing considering the over 800 million people who go to bed hungry each day and the thousands who die because of hunger.
Food waste impacts more than just social and environmental components of our daily lives. The production costs and environmental damage resulting from the 1.3 billion tons of wasted food are enormous. It is estimated that three billion people could be fed with the food that is wasted annually, which would also equal a recovery of $162 billion in revenues lost by retail stores, farmers, and small growers. The lack of refrigeration in third world countries, coupled with longer transit times, fuels this massive loss of food.
Improperly disposed food waste is higher in countries with high per capita incomes. Food loss, which mainly involves production errors or mishandling, happens at the beginning of the food supply chain, resulting in much less climatic impact than food waste. Both loss and waste require one simple solution: waste not, want not. Composting at the industrial and end-user levels, combined with sensible production practices and transportation improvements, would allow the billions of tons of food waste to be converted to food for those in need. By composting, the 38 percent of the Earth’s ice-free land currently used for farming can be preserved for future generations to come.
If food waste were an established country, it would be the third-largest producer of greenhouse gasses, trailing only the United States and China. Latin American countries produce and waste an alarming 30 billion pounds of eggs annually, with an added 5 billion pounds simply left untouched. Eggshells take up to four weeks to decompose naturally; imagine how much soil could be preserved if this egg waste was reduced.
Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery, so with food prices on the rise and transportation growing in demand, the time for change is now. New technologies have been implemented to help monitor cold foods in transit, otherwise called the “cold chain,” which employs temperature tracking devices and GPS monitoring to ensure quick, efficient delivery from manufacturers to wholesale or retail establishments.
In the grocery industry, we can take simple steps today to make a meaningful impact. Here are just a few big and small ideas to get you started:
- Donate excess perishables and out-of-date products to local food banks.
- Compost any excess that cannot be donated.
- Repurpose damaged goods into your deli and bakery productions.
- Implement an Ugly Fruit campaign to offer lower prices on visually less appealing produce.
- Improve perishable labeling to better inform consumers how long they can keep food.
Our New Year’s resolution is to Stop Waste Together. The question is, will you join us?