The sources of food waste

The sources of food waste

Franck WALLET – 26 nov 2015

The amount of food waste on Earth is huge: between 30 and 40% of the total production go to the bin every year.

But why? Where does all this waste come from? Let’s do a short round of the different sources of food waste.

1 – The mass-market system

Farmer – factory – transports – storage – retailing in supermarket: all these steps of the chain of our actual system induce waste, in order to offer us what we, final customers, are used to find and expect: affordability – choice – uniformity – food safety. First, affordability often means lower quality. Then, choice and uniformity mean lots and lots of unsold and wrong shaped products. Last but not least, food safety, though necessary, reached so extreme and absurd levels that extremely fresh products are daily wasted days before they would actually perish.

2 – Local shops

Every day, the small local shops (bakery, butcher’s, grocer’s shops,…) and local markets throw lots of unsold products for many reasons. The main point is often that they want their displays full till the closing time, which means at this time they have to get rid of a lot of still fresh products to offer fresher ones the next morning.

3 – Households

We, consumers, produce approximately 30% of the global amount of the world food waste. To make it simple, we tend to eat too much, cook too much, buy too much. Making a list of items to buy and follow it, taking a daily check of what we store in our fridge, reusing our leftovers, buying a little everyday rather than a lot once a week, are simple actions that can have big results for the planet…and your wallet!

4 – Catering

Canteens and restaurants are the place for a huge waste, both in the kitchen and in the client’s plates. In the kitchen, the cooks rarely know exactly how many people they will serve, neither what they will choose. Therefore, they often prepare too much. Then, most of the time, they fill all the plates with standard portions, which means it can’t always exactly fit to everyone, and a lot of customers don’t finish it.

Then, why not using a doggy bag?

5 – NGO’s

Yes, as hard to believe as it is, NGO’s unfortunately product waste in the way often lack of the Human resources, fridges and cars they need, and therefore aren’t always able to take, store, and distribute all the food given by the donors.

6 – Freegans

Freegans – the guys who live from the still-good food they find in the bins of the shops and supermarkets – are sometimes gleaning dirtily, leaving a mess around the bins behind them. If they were always clean and conscientious, maybe the stores would not hide and lock their bins as much as they do now…

7 – Other uses

Giving crops to animals (in order to produce meat), and to our cars (agro-fuels) instead of Humans is a dramatic waste in our society.

8 – Developing countries

If the rich countries waste mostly at the consumption step, the developing countries waste more at the production step, lacking of appropriate tools, roads, factories and storage means.

Instead of helping them to be more independents by improving those means, the lobbies prefer “helping” them by sending GMO seeds and poisonous inputs in order to produce more, waste more…and make more money.

9 – Anthropological factors

When Humans produce too much food, this has several advantages for the politicians: 1/the country would still have enough food in case of a crisis 2/ thanks to the surplus, we can help the poorer countries, which allows higher political prestige for the helper, and also keeps those countries dependent from us.

10 – Recycling

The ways of recycling we choose are a source of waste, when they are not the most efficient. Thus, the best is to not produce the waste. But when the waste exists, the best renderings are: 1/feeding animals, 2/producing methane, 3/producing compost. Then, producing compost is better than nothing, but is not as energy-efficient as feeding a pig in order to get pork.

So as we can see, food waste is the result of many different linked and unlinked causes. Fighting against food waste doesn’t mean one fight and one solution, but many different fights and solutions, as various as the ones that each of our imaginations will be able to bring.