British supermarket Tesco has set up a food waste tool that allows users to submit whatever leftovers they have in their home and Tesco will provide recipes. When our imagination and creativity fails to come up with a half-decent meal from the random assortment of ingredients in our house, this online tool could lend a helping hand.
So many of us waste food in the form of leftovers because we think they can’t be used again. We forget about the food until it passes its expiry date, and then we chuck it.
The problem of food waste
The UK really needs measures to reduce its food waste problem. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that Brits waste 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, most of which could have been consumed. This costs each household £470 a year. The FSA states that “small changes will make a big difference”.
Tesco’s new online tool could, therefore, play an important role in reducing food waste, if people remember to use it when they have leftovers in their house.
Food waste is serious a global issue. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one-third of all the food produced in the world – that’s approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted. Here are some other startling statistics from the FAO:
- Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
- Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
- The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
- Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
- The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people.
- The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
- The food currently lost in Africa could feed 300 million people.
- Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.
According to Project Dawn, a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming, reducing food waste is the third most effective solution for cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing plant-based diets and solar farms.
More needs to be done
We will need to do more than use a food waste tool to tackle a problem on this kind of scale. This would include following recipes that reduce food waste and always eating, cooking and freezing food by the use by date.
As Red Planet previously highlighted, we can also make a difference by cutting down on how much food we buy; cutting down on how much food we make; storing food in the right places, and making donations to food banks. The personal financial cost of food waste is, of course, an unnecessary loss; but throwing away food that other people need is much worse.
In addition, as TreeHugger stresses, food is wasted before it even reaches the consumer; so efforts like Tesco’s online tool “must be combined with an aggressive push to cut waste at every level of the supply chain.” Wasted food can also be used to generate electricity. Indeed, there are many things that supermarkets and consumers could be doing to reduce the food waste problem, and, in turn, the impact that we’re having on the environment.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a writer who is especially interested in space exploration, sustainability, animal agriculture, nutrition, wellbeing and smart drugs.