No, Really, Why is Food Waste a Problem?

When faced with this question, why food waste is a problem, we are spontaneously prompt to answer, “because there are so many hungry people in the World!”. This answer is certainly correct, as approximately 870 million people are going hungry every day, and the number is not dropping.

1/3 of all the food that is produced globally is not eaten and the total waste is estimated at 1,3 billion tonnes per year. However, “the collateral damage of food waste is far greater than a simple loss of caloric intake”, says Kyra K. Payne in her article for the Inquiries Journal.

In terms of economic loss, food waste (excluding fish and seafood) is estimated at 1.3 billion tonnes per year, which approximates 750 billion USD annually. But besides being an ethical issue, and a mark of huge economic inefficiency, food waste has turned into an enormous environmental hazard to our planet.

When we waste food, it’s not just the food product that’s wasted. It’s also the water, agricultural inputs, energy and packaging and greenhouse gas emissions that go into creating and transporting the food. There are about $2.18 billion dollars of economic impact that results from trashing our food each year

- JoAnne Berkenkamp, senior advocate, NRDC

Food Waste FactsHere are 6 of the major consequences of food waste:

1.Petrol and Energy Consumption 

Food production uses 300 million barrels of petrol per annum. Think of the use of diesel for agricultural operations, such as ploughing, harvesting and drying the produce. Petrol is further needed for transportation. On factory level, a significant amount of electric energy is used for food cutting, processing, and packaging.

In addition, petroleum is extensively used in the agricultural process for producing byproducts from fertilisers to packaging. Food production is an energy extensive process which, besides coming with a considerable price tag, is a significant contributor to CO2 emissions.

2. Deforestation 

Because of the growing food demand, each year an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares), roughly the size of the territory of Panama, are destroyed through tree-cutting and deforestation to make way for arable land, FAO data reveals. Currently, about half of the world’s tropical forests have been cleared.

Forests act as a carbon sink playing a critical role in mitigating climate change because they soak up CO2 that would otherwise be free to accumulate and harm the atmosphere.  WWF data reveals that 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are a result of deforestation.

3. Soil Depletion and Degradation

Intensive agriculture is destroying the earth’s natural regenerative properties by depleting soil 20 times faster than it can restore itself in a natural way. Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. Modern agriculture also causes soil degradation, a process that leads to decline in the fertility or future productive capacity of soil as a result of human activity.

The quality of soil is deteriorated through (1) water or wind erosion, (2) depletion of nutrients or the toxicity due to acidity or alkalinity (chemical additives and fertilisers)) and waterlogging, and (3) biodiveristy destruction which affect the micro-flora and reduce the microbial activity of the soil.

4. Biodiversity

Deforestation and soil depletion have an extremely negative impact of biodiversity and the health of the natural ecosystems. They alter habitats, disrupt the processes with the system, and accelerate the extinction of plant and animal species.

5. Water Resources

Agriculture accounts for, on average, 70% of all water withdrawals globally, (water removed from available supplies without return to a water resource) due to the evapotranspiration requirements of crops. Farms and their wasteful and inefficient irrigation systems are major contributors to water scarcity on the globe.

One-fifth of the world’s population lacks safe drinking water. Meanwhile, the food that is produced but not eaten each year utilises 25% of all fresh water, equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River.  Therefore, food waste takes a double toll on our water resources  – once in extensive and ineffective irrigation and a second time in utilised produce.

6. Global Warming

Food waste is also responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. Food in the developed countries is the single largest component of the waste that goes to landfills. Decomposed food creates a serious amount of methane, a gas that has 21 times a more negative effect on global warming than has carbon dioxide. In total, food waste is responsible for 135 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

From Farm to Landfill CO2 Emissions by Type of Food

The major contributors to the carbon footprint of food wastage are cereals (34% of total), followed by meat (21%) and vegetables (21 %). Products of animal origin contribute to the food waste volume by only 15%, yet they account altogether for about 33% of the total carbon footprint.

Can we Reverse the Trend?

So food waste is an environmental, economic, and ethical issue that progressively results not only in a growing loss of caloric intake but also in a rising volume of unnecessary depletion of finite resources and pollution.

Our complex modern food system continuously exacerbates the cumulating effect of the food waste problem. However, it is not an irreversible trend. Tweaking our household food management skills will result in a change in our behaviour as consumers. When the scaled effect of conscious consumption and decreased demand become evident, it will lead to broader changes on a global level that will result in a more sustainable food production system.

That is what the concept behind the CozZo app is all about. We believe that by using our app and by making small but powerful changes in the way we run our kitchens will turn us into conscious and mindful consumers and that is a big step towards making our planet a more sustainable place.


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