From a very young age, the importance of not wasting food is often drilled into our heads. We are taught that portions must be carefully divided in order to avoid wastage and that all of the food that is served to us on our plates must be consumed completely. Despite being taught these lessons, we continue to witness staggering amounts of food being wasted around the world. For instance, according to the United Nations Organization, globally, humans waste somewhere between one-third to half of the total food that is produced.
Food Waste Statistics From Around The Globe
While as individuals we do share some responsibility in contributing to this global food waste crisis, the hospitality industry, along with other commercial food producers and manufacturers, contribute much more to food wastage.
With the changing trends in consumerism across the globe, smaller portions for a higher price have always been associated with the elite and the upper echelons of society that can afford to pay exorbitant prices for tiny portions of food. As a counter to this, many fast food joints and restaurants began offering larger portions of food at more affordable prices, leading to consumers associating the worth of a dish with its quantity as much as, or more than, the quality.
While the disadvantages of huge portions and overconsumption of food have been studied and researched repeatedly, the notion of what we would consider ‘reasonable’ and ‘affordable’ in terms of food prices continues to have much to do with its huge portions.
Across the many continents and their countries, food waste continues to be a huge concern. For instance, according to the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP), which is a charity organization based in the UK, food waste costs hotels in that country around £318 million a year.
In the US, the amount of food that is wasted annually is estimated to be around 35 million tonnes to 103 million tonnes.
In India, we have an equally staggering figure for food wastage – according to The Hindu Business Line, we waste 67 million tonnes of food per year, a quantity that is enough to feed the whole state of Bihar. A lot of this waste is from the food we over serve for ourselves or leftovers from the huge portions of food that is served in restaurants and fast food joints in the country.
Certainly, this is an alarming amount of food that is being wasted every year in our country and in the world, while on the other hand millions of people are still going without food every day. Considering how extensive this crisis is, it is necessary to understand how food waste occurs.
There are a lot of ways in which food gets wasted. Some studies show that in developing countries like India, food waste primarily occurs during production while in developed countries, it happens during consumption. Let us take a look at some key factors that lead to wastage of food:
1. Weddings, Festivals, And Other Gatherings
It is no surprise that a lot of the food that is served at weddings, festivals, and other such gatherings often goes wasted. This often happens because as individuals, we may over-serve ourselves and then find it impossible to finish our portions. Similarly, when organizing an event, food that is often ordered in surplus to ensure that everyone in attendance is served gets thrown away instead of being donated to the needy.
2. Restaurants, Hotels, And Food Joints
In restaurants as well, the food that is produced is often in surplus, and diners themselves do not always find it possible to finish the food that they order, mostly due to the large portions that are served to them. Together, these factors contribute to a large amount of food being wasted by restaurants, hotels, and other food joints.
3. Food Wastage During Production
Apart from the individual and commercial wastage of food during consumption, a large portion of food is wasted during production itself. For instance, while harvesting crops, faulty machinery can lead to the damaging and wastage of food that would otherwise have been fit for human consumption. Similarly, during factory production of food products, when machinery malfunctions, it is often more cost-efficient to let it run through an entire batch of food that will be wasted than to stop the machinery in the middle of a production line and fix it.
How Does Large-Scale Food Wastage Affect Us?
Landfills are created when huge amounts of waste are dumped at certain sites before they can be processed. In major Indian cities like Mumbai, landfills occupy a significant amount of space due to the sheer percentage of waste that is produced by the residents of the city. According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the city of Mumbai creates around 9400 metric tonnes of waste, and of this around 70% is food waste.
2. Methane Gas, Global Warming
Considering how most solid waste is generated from excess food that is discarded, these landfills also contribute to the production of methane. Methane is a gas that is naturally produced when vegetable waste decomposes and it is known to contribute to global warming.
3. Disease Spreading Vermins
The heaps of vegetable waste often attract rodents and other pests, leading to the spread of various diseases amongst people who live near such landfills.
4. Groundwater Pollution
As solid waste heaps decompose, there is often a discharge that is produced from them. This discharge, known as leachate, can seep underground and pollute the water table under the ground in that area.
What Can We Do to Reduce Food Wastage?
Our primary concern when it comes to reducing the impacts of food wastage must be the reduction in our consumption. For instance, when shopping for food, we must make sure to buy only what we are certain that we can consume before it expires. Further, any excess food that is created must be donated to those who are in need of it.
Another way of reducing food waste is by practicing composting. For this, there are various products that can be fitted into both domestic and commercial kitchens that will crush food waste from vegetables, meat, and poultry which then can then be used in compost.
An example of such a product is the domestic food waste disposers and commercial food waste disposers that are sold by BinCrusher. Waste crushers such as the FCD and the 720R crush wet waste into a sludge that can be used for composting or can be allowed to decompose in the sewer system, rather than being dumped into landfills.
We can quite significantly reduce the amount of food that is wasted by practicing the above-mentioned methods.