Show your Waste—and help us to show what is being thrown away: where, why, when and by whom.Go out, look around and tell us about the food in the bins where you live. Send texts, photos, videos, and help to reveal the huge scandal of how we are wasting food.

Author of this article is valentin
Published on 2009-10-21

Tags for this article:
Asia Consum Documentary Europe United States Waste

We throw away 50% of our food. At the same time, one billon people aresuffering from famine throughout the world. About 25 000 people die ofhunger each and every day.

Between plough and plate, we waste almost as much food as we eat. Many countries don’t have the slightest idea how much is wasted. Britain made an effort to measure the waste pile and came to a staggering 15 million tonnes of food a year. That means: 484 million unopened yogurt pots each year, 1.6 billion untouched apples (or 27 per person), and 2.6 billion slices of bread.  Reducing food waste means a big opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions –- if we threw away only half of the avoidable waste, the consequences for the climate would be the same as taking one out of five cars off our roads.

It would also help the hungry, because they also depend on the global food cycle. Cash crops from all over the world are traded on the stock exchange. The agricultural resources on this planet are limited. Growing demand means prices are rising. There are nearly a billion undernourished people in the world. The number is rising because we are facing another global food crisis now. North America and Europe combined chuck out enough to feed the world’s hungry three times over. The farmland taken up to produce it for us could instead be producing for them. If affluent nations stopped throwing away so much food, pressure on the world’s remaining natural ecosystems would be lifted, alleviating the hunger crisis.

Young activists protest against this situation by rescuing the wasted food. People eating rubbish—a habit that sounds disgusting until you see the loads of perfectly edible food in the bins of your supermarket or sandwich shop around the corner. They often receive help from the employees of the shops because, just as most people do, they feel bad about dumping food. There appears to be something instinctive in human beings that tells us so. 

But why the hell are we still wasting more and more? Due to the logic of industrial food production:Farmers waste when the prices drop below the level they have to spend for labour and machines. So if the rates on the commodity markets are low, the wheat rots in the fields.  Food is also wasted during transport because of rigid laws: When the refrigeration system on a tomato lorry breaks down, the whole load has to be destroyed. Or when just one peach on the wholesale market is rotten, they have to throw away the whole pallet.  Supermarkets waste because they feel forced to offer everything to their clientele at all times. They fear if the shelves are not full, customers will switch to competitors. So when new stuff arrives, the old has to be thrown out –- regardless if it is still edible or not.  And consumers waste because they are misled about the meaning of the “sell by” label. A third of British consumers think that any product past its best-before date is liable to poison them and should never be eaten. Obviously we have to relearn how to recognise if food is still edible or not. 

There are simple solutions to put an end to the global food waste scandal: Eat locally –- buy food from farmers in your region. In the US this trend is called “locavores”, and you find a nearby farm on the website of Local Harvest. There are similar groups in Europe, too. Please send us the contacts or post articles on this website!

Use leftovers for cooking.

I just spotted quite a sophisticated leftover recipe on goop.com, Gwyneth Paltrow’s home page. Please send us your recipes!

Put pressure on your government to abolish or change the “Sell by” and “Best before” labels.

The British government is considering phasing out the “confusing labels”, writes the Guardian. Please write us about the situation in your country!

Put pressure on your government to refrain from dumpster-divers being punished for trespassing.

In Germany, for example, even in the waste bins thrown-out food is still considered the property of the supermarket. Taking it is considered a crime and has been prosecuted several times. Please report to us about where you live!

Food banks distribute leftovers to the poor.

It is not a solution to the problem, but at least it alleviates poverty in our rich countries. The first one was created in New York City and is called City Harvest. The concept has been adopted in many countries. Please send us information about your country!

Other ideas? Please send us your Recepies to combat foodwaste.

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