In the contemporary world, waste management has emerged as one of the biggest challenges. Among the various types of wastes that go poorly managed, food waste deserves a special mention. As per statistics, about a third of the total food produced globally ends up wasted. Like any other waste, food waste has detrimental effects on the environment.
What exactly is food waste and how does it differ from food loss?
One can primarily categorize wasted food into two types: food loss and food waste. Food loss refers to the food that is lost through spillage or spoiling or other means, at any stage of processing. This includes food that isn’t edible yet, such as crops and half-processed food items.
However, if you are wondering what is food waste, you should understand that food waste incorporates wasted food that is in perfectly edible condition. Leftovers from restaurants and households comprise a major portion of the total food waste. In this regard, you might want to note that Australia records about 7.3 million tons of lost or wasted food on a yearly basis.
How is food waste a threat to the environment?
Despite the fact that food is usually bio-degradable, food waste still has significant impacts on the environment, such as:
1. Greenhouse gases
One of the biggest problems posed by food waste is that it often ends up in landfills and rots away. The degradation of food waste in landfills produces large amounts of methane, one of the major greenhouse gases. Methane happens to be far more powerful than carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming. Quite essentially, food waste, among other wastes, is a key factor behind global warming.
2. Loss of green cover
By now, it is a well-known fact that the expansion of agricultural areas is one of the most notable reasons behind deforestation. As the global demand for food grows along with the population so does the need for agricultural land. However, about a third of the total agricultural land, i.e., about 1.4 million hectares, produces food that ultimately goes to waste. The landfills too, are constantly expanding in size, taking up more and more valuable land.
You might want to remember that food waste includes food that has undergone processing to become edible. Even the food that you cook and home but end up wasting falls into this category. All the processing and cooking results in large amounts of emissions down the production chain. All the emissions from the production and processing of wasted food add up and have adverse effects on the environment. In fact, if you were to list food waste in a rank of countries responsible for the highest emissions, it would easily secure the third rank globally.
4. Waste of resources
Food waste also results in the wastage of valuable natural resources. Agriculture alone accounts for more than 70% of global water usage. Now, in addition to agriculture, you also need to consider the resources used up while processing the food. For example, wasting a glass of milk indirectly results in wasting a thousand liters of water. Processing and cooking food also uses up various energy resources, such as oil and gas.
How can you help the environment by reducing the impact of food waste?
Thankfully, food waste is a crisis that every individual can help to resolve. The contribution of every individual, even at a personal level, counts towards reducing the impacts of food waste. Here are a few solutions that anyone can incorporate:
1. Better disposal and management of waste
It is understandable that you may generate some food waste even after trying hard to avoid it. However, proper disposal would ensure that the waste doesn’t end up in landfills. If necessary, hire skip bins Sydney from a company that takes care to recycle and properly dispose of the collected waste.
2. Reuse food waste
If food waste is in good condition, you may put it to use in other ways than previously intended. For instance, there are various recipes where you could use up leftovers. You may even make pickles or other preserved food items from excess produce.
3. Buy or cook only what you need
One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste is to avoid buying or cooking more food than you need. Gauge your needs carefully and get yourself only the food that you would be able to consume, be it at home or while eating outdoors.
By taking simple steps at a personal level, we can together defeat the problems posed by food waste. All you need to do is reduce the food waste you generate and ensure that all your food waste undergoes proper disposal.