“Feel what it’s like to truly starve, and I guarantee that you’ll forever think twice before wasting food.” – Criss Jami
Up to one-third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year. A global paradox; the wasted food is enough to feed three times the entire malnourished population of the world. Defined as “discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption along the entire food supply chain” by the FAO, food waste quantifies to 1.6 billion tons a year. A significant cause of social setback, economic loss, and environmental deterioration, food waste translates into a waste of many ancillary elements, including labour.
A meal that doesn’t fit the mood – impromptu pizza run? A meal that doesn’t appeal to the palate – log in to a food delivery app? A meal cooked in excess – refrigerator overload? Food waste seeps into our lives inconspicuously. The plate of food that hits the bin embodies facets beyond the edible. From farm to fork to landfill, food waste significantly contributes to global warming. The energy utilised in production, transportation, and storage of food being a major part of the issue. Adding to that the greenhouse gas emissions from landfills created for food waste are estimated to be 3.3 billion tons per year. If food waste were a country it would rank third worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, placed between United States of America and India.
Consequences of food wastage span well beyond climate change and encompass land and biodiversity loss. Conserve Energy Future reports, “The produced but unconsumed food accounts for approximately 1.4 billion hectares of land, constituting almost one third of the planet’s agricultural land.” Representing missed opportunity for scientific research and social growth, this land also reflects loss of biodiversity. Slash and burn, deforestation, and conversion of wild areas into farm lands is actively practised by farmers in an attempt to obtain fertile lands for maximising agricultural yields. An unequivocal threat to at-risk plants and animal species and the cause of birds, amphibians, and mammals losing their natural habitat, food waste further intensifies the issue at hand. However, the biodiversity loss isn’t always as concomitant. Mass rearing of livestock and harnessing of seafood under the false pretense of food security ultimately leading to food waste is threatening the fauna globally.
Accounting for 25 percent of all freshwater consumed globally, the environmental effects of food waste are profound. Contributing to the blue water footprint, the amount of consumed surface and groundwater resources that goes to waste, food waste is responsible for nearly 250 cubic kilometres of water being wasted every year. The glass of milk that makes its way down the drain (sitting out for a while; the additional mix didn’t taste great; reasons can be aplenty) is equivalent to 1000 litres of water being poured down that very drain. The glass of OJ that is disposed after mistakenly being left outside required 170 litres of water to produce.
If the impact of food waste on the environment doesn’t have you appalled there’s more to be unveiled. FAO report estimates the economic losses associated with food wastage to be about 750 billion USD per annum. Thereby, every fruit that rots, every vegetable that is disposed, and every meal that is wasted is money being thrown in a garbage bin. The economic issue evolves into a social one as food waste causes escalation of prices. With increase in food waste, there is an increase in demand, thereby causing an increase in costs of resources required for production. The cycle impacts over 800 million people worldwide; as 1 in every 9 individuals goes to bed hungry.
“Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes,” reports CSR Journal. “Up to 40 percent of all food produced in India goes to waste,” reports the United Nations Development Programme. “INR 50,000 crore worth of food produced is wasted every year in the country,” reports The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. With India ranking 63 on the Global Hunger Index, the onus lies on us to bring about a change. One that will curb both food waste and hunger.
Revelation 02 will reveal the unseen and dire side of the food chain and industry – food wastage. First edition of the four part series, we aim to enable, educate, and encourage individuals to take action.