An estimated $27 billion worth of edible food is wasted in Canada every year. That’s a ‘b’ folks, and just in Canada. Worldwide, the FAO estimates that one third of food goes to waste.
Here at home, households are on the hook for half the wasted food. Of that half, up to 60 percent is the result of perishable food that isn’t used in time. That jives with my experience. When I think of the stuff going into the compost that could have been eaten, it’s the bread that went mouldy and the fruits and vegetables that went bad before we remembered to eat them.
Trying to get a handle on food waste is partly about paying attention …bread always moulds WAY faster than I think it will. If I checked a day or two sooner, I could freeze it and avoid the mould monster.
So yes, there are things that, as a householder, I need to work on. But many of our food decisions are influenced by grocery store practices. The worst one I can think of is the “buy one for one price, buy three for cheaper” pricing, especially as it applies to perishable foods. I’m okay with non-perishable things like soaps, or maybe even canned goods, being priced this way, but applying it to perishables pretty much guarantees wasted food. Fresh foods, especially during their off-seasons, come from great distances and involve considerable energy to produce and transport (think refrigeration trucks) and selling them with incentives for overbuying that sends them to landfills (or even composters) dishonors all that effort and borders on the irresponsible.
Another thing food manufacturers (and the government, through inaction), do, is mess with consumers by labelling food with ‘best before’ dates. (Harvard Law School and Natural Resources Defence Council just released a study on this). So much edible food is discarded because there are no standardized labels and people think ‘best before’ means ‘safe to eat until’, when ‘best before’ really means ‘at its peak until that date’ (but still safe to eat after).
Not to mention the amount we do eat. Average caloric intake for Canada goes up every year. If we worked on this one, we could tackle both kinds of waste (waist) reduction at the same time!
Side note: Kudos to UK grocery Tesco for recognizing its contribution to food waste taking on some of these issues. Read more here.