By guest author: Erin Meyer
(story originally posted on Land & Ladle on Medium)
Food waste has become an issue on many people’s and organization’s radars lately and for good reason as food waste squanders our limited resources and contributes to climate change. Food waste has many causes. For example, in more developed countries food is highly wasted on the consumer and retailer’s end due to some consumers’ lack of knowledge about expiration dates and retailers’ perceptions that consumers only want perfect looking food. In less developed areas, food is highly wasted on the farm level and before it gets to the consumer due to transportation and preservation problems and inefficiencies.
Food waste has many causes and many potential solutions as well. Not all solutions are as sustainable as the others and it likely will take a combination of solutions and a global initiative to really combat this huge issue.
The Food Wastage Pyramid is a pictorial representation of solutions to food waste. The inverted pyramid places “Reduce” at the top of the pyramid as this is the most sustainable option and “Landfill” at the bottom since this is the least sustainable option.
The best thing to do is obviously to prevent food waste from happening in the first place. The Food and Agricultural Organization suggests that if the supply-demand balance could be better adjusted on the front end, it would mean not using the natural resources to produce food in the first place and therefore, there would be less pressure on our natural resources and we could use those resources for other purposes.
The next best option is to reuse food waste and keep any excess food in the human food chain. This can entail finding a secondary market for the food or donating it to food banks. If the food is unfit and unsafe for human consumption, using the food scraps as livestock feed is the next best option.
Recycle and Recover
Food waste can be recycled and recovered by utilizing by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration with energy recovery and rendering. These methods allow the energy and nutrients to be recovered which is why it is better than tossing the waste into the landfill. However, it also means that people did not get the energy and nutrients from the food so of course it is not ideal.
Food waste in landfills contributes to the emission of gases such as methane (a potent greenhouse gas) and it can potentially pollute the surrounding soil and water. This is the least sustainable option and should be avoided.
Clearly, there are many possible ways to ameliorate the food waste issue. It will require innovation, teamwork and passion, but reducing and combating the issue is within reach.
Call to Action:
We can be part of the solution. You can start by learning about the impacts of food waste and how you may be unknowingly contributing to it by reading Ten Suprising Causes of Food Waste and How to Fix Them. Then you can help me wage war on food waste by actively working to reduce it. Will you join the fight?
About the author: Erin Meyer is currently the CropMobster Merced Coordinator, working at the University of California, Merced. She is passionate about reducing food waste and hunger. She recently completed her Master’s of Science degree in Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems after finishing two degrees in Integrative Biology and Nutrition. Her expertise gives her deep insight into ways to work with the community to reduce some of the great issues impacting the food system. Besides working with CropMobster Merced County, she is helping reduce food waste at the Merced County Food Bank. In her spare time, she likes to run and she enjoys blogging about food waste and sustainability. Read more of her work here and send her an email at emeyer09[@]gmail.com if you are interested in and want help with reducing your personal or organization’s food waste.