The Hidden Cost of Food Waste
Roughly one-third of food intended for consumption is lost or wasted, resulting in substantial economic losses, increased world hunger and devastating environmental consequences. Today, we’ll explore exactly how food waste affects the environment in particular and how we can all do our part to reduce our contributions. Let’s get started.
When you throw away food, you’re wasting all the resources that were used to put it in your hands, such as producing, processing, transportation, preparation and storage. All these processes require a significant amount of water, energy and land, with the unnecessary use of water and energy for irrigation and transportation putting an even further strain on our ecosystems. By lowering the amount of food we waste, we can help to conserve our resources and stay prepared for the future.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
When food waste ends up in landfills, the lack of oxygen causes anaerobic decomposition. This results in the release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that can absorb radiation and heavily contributes to global warming and climate change. Methane is an estimated 25 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide is, making food waste a large contributor to the growing emissions problem.
The food that ends up in landfills can also impact nearby bodies of water, with harmful chemicals and nutrients spreading into their ecosystems. This pollution not only affects the quality of drinking water, but can also impact aquatic life and cause them to experience premature death or illness. Proper food management can help lower the risk of water contamination and protect marine life from dangerous pollution.
Food production often involves the large-scale clearing of land to make room for agriculture, which can mean deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats. This can displace countless animals, disrupt local ecosystems and pose a threat to biodiversity. In addition, the use of pesticides and fertilisers in farming can cause further environmental damage. Lowering food waste means we can decrease the demand for agricultural expansion and minimise its impacts on the environment and biodiversity.
All around the world, landfills are quickly reaching their capacity. Food waste can take up valuable space in landfills, when proper food management could keep them out of landfills entirely. Not only does food waste in landfills release methane, but when it’s not recycled or composted it loses the ability to regenerate soil nutrients. By keeping food waste out of landfills, we can improve soil health and help decrease the strain on our landfills.
How to Make a Difference
If you want to lower your contributions to food waste, there’s plenty that can be done. Here are our top tips for decreasing food waste and keeping it out of landfills.
- Plan Your Meals and Shopping Lists
Before doing your weekly food shop, plan out your meals so that you know exactly what products you’re looking for and how much you need. When you don’t have a carefully planned grocery list, you’re more likely to make impulse purchases that you don’t need and will more likely than not end up wasted. Also, while it may seem as if buying in bulk might be cheaper, this isn’t the case if, in reality, you’re just throwing it in the bin at the end of the week.
- Store Food Correctly
Storing your food correctly can go a long way in keeping it fresh for as long as possible, helping you get the most bang for your buck and keeping it from being wasted. Some food storage solutions include:
- Refrigerate or freeze perishables as soon as you’re home from the supermarket
- Keep your fridge and freezer at the right temperature
- Read storage directions on labels
- Invest in tupperware containers and storage for food that’s been opened
- Use ready-to-eat foods ASAP
Composting involves breaking down food and organic waste into reusable organic matter, using bacteria, worms, fungi and more. Food scraps and fruit and vegetables can be composted along with grass clippings, green leaves, twigs, paper and more, and are the perfect way to keep waste out of landfills and create fertiliser that can be used to improve the soil condition in your garden. If you have excess green waste that doesn’t fit in your compost, you can always look into skip bin hire to have it disposed of correctly and kept out of landfills.