How much do different countries throw away
There are a lot of numbers and research. So it is not clear how much we waste, exactly, but this is what I found: In poor countries, people are a lot more economical with their food. They “only” throw away 5%-16% of their food. The more money we have, the more we think we can waste, because in Europe and America, we don’t eat up to 45% of the food we buy.
Consumers throw away the most
In the Netherlands, consumers throw away about 42% of the total food waste. I always thought the restaurants and the retailers were the bad guys, but they are doing good, compared to us. The hospitality business wastes about 14% and supermarkets about 5%. So in Holland, the consumers can make a huge difference if we would buy just what we will eat.
Who’s the other bad guy?
The numbers don’t add up, right? That is because the food producers are the other bad guy. They waste up to 30%. This is only in Holland. Globally, 28% of the world’s agricultural area is used to produce food that is lost or wasted. Shocking, right!
Why do we throw away so much?
We throw away almost half of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products, and 20% of meat worldwide. But why? Some of it is the government. For our ‘safety’, they make producers put dates on packages. We, the consumers, don’t eat food that is out of date. Weird, because most of it is perfectly eatable. The other problem is that our eyes (and wallets) are bigger than our stomachs. We buy more than we can eat and, eventually, throw it away. A waste for the environment and our wallets. And last but not least, we do not eat peels. About 10% of the food ‘waste’ are peels and other uneatable parts of fruits and vegetables.
Why is food waste bad for the environment?
Let’s take rice as an example: it is mostly produced in Asia. The rice plant needs lots of water and caring before it even grows a grain of rice. Then it is taken off the land (with machines, so oil and gas is used), and the rice gets separated from the plant. Let’s fast forward to the shipping. Because it is quite a journey before it lands on our plates. It takes a lot of gas/oil to get the rice from Asia to us (a lot of CO2 emission here). And then we go to the supermarket and many people go there by car (again a lot of CO2 emission).
And what do we do with it? We chuck it in the bin, because it is out of date, and we go to the store again to buy a new bag of rice.
This is just an example, but I hope you understand the production of food and the transportation of food has a big ecological footprint.
This is how you stop food waste
So now you know that we, the consumers, are the biggest bad guy for food waste; here is what you can do about it:
Make a plan
Think of when you are going to eat at home and who is joining for dinner. Just buy what you need for that. If you don’t use all the vegetables, think of what other meals you can make with the leftovers.
Freeze the leftovers
Did your planning not go as planned, and do you still have leftovers? Put them in the freezer. You can save most food for over a month (longer if you don’t mind it losing taste). Also, when you buy too many vegetables, put them in the freezer and use them when you need them.
Safe food in the fridge
You can save food longer when stored in a cold place, especially fruits and vegetables. You can still eat them after two weeks when you save them in the fridge. Did your apples go a little wrinkly? Use them in a cake or pie.
Don’t look at the date
Use your senses: How does the rice look? How does the soya milk smell? Use your senses to see if food is still eatable, instead of looking at the date. Since I stopped looking at dates, I throw away a lot less and saved myself a lot of money.
Ignore dates on tins and air tight packages
When food is packed in tins and air tight packages, it hardly goes bad. It might lose taste after a couple of years, but it is still perfectly eatable. So stop throwing away cans of soup because it is out of date.
What are your best food saving tips? Let me know in the comment box below!