How food waste impacts the environment

Every year, over 2.5 billion metric tons of food is wasted throughout the world, and about half of which is wasted on farms in Europe and the United States. This leaves a significant impact on the climate.

• What are the causes of food wastage?

Food waste, on average, is distributed fairly across the food supply chain. Agricultural manufacturing is one of the main causes of the food wastage, accounting for 33% of all food waste generated. Upstream wastage volumes, which include production, post-harvest handling, and storage, account for 54% of total wastage, while downstream wastage volumes, which include processing, distribution, and consumption, account for 46%.

• The environmental consequences of food waste

Food waste significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste frequently ends up in landfills. As it rots in the landfill, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is even more powerful than CO2. Greenhouse gases are also emitted during the manufacturing and delivery of food. Methane is produced by cows raised as livestock, whereas, carbon dioxide is mainly produced by vehicle emissions that transport food.
Food waste constitutes a significant waste of freshwater and groundwater resources, with agriculture accounting for 70% of all water consumed globally. Throwing away a kilo of beef is actually wasting 50,000 liters of water that is used to produce beef. Similarly, pouring a glass of milk down the drain wastes approximately 1,000 liters of water.

When it comes to land use, around 1.4 billion hectares, or nearly one-third of the world’s total agricultural land area, is used to cultivate food that is thrown away. Every year, millions of gallons of oil are spent to create food that is not consumed. And none of this takes into consideration the detrimental effects on biodiversity caused by activities such as monocropping and the conversion of natural lands.

• What can be done to prevent food waste?

Food manufacturers and suppliers can do many things to reduce the amount of food wasted. Food producers might invest in technologies for storage and preservation. If food is not properly kept after harvest, it may spoil. Refrigeration is not always accessible in some locations. This is especially the case in many poor nations. Scientists are studying cooling alternatives in these areas. One possibility is to dry the food and keep it in a moisture-proof container.
Food is sometimes deemed unfit for human consumption. Instead of tossing out all of that food, part of it may be utilized as livestock feed. Today, a large amount of agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops to feed livestock. Clearing land for farming damages the ecosystem of local animals and plants, therefore there are always alternatives to consider.

However, there are things that consumers can do to decrease the quantity of food that is wasted. This includes people like you and me! We can store food properly so that it does not spoil. When we eat out, we may request lighter servings. Lastly, instead of tossing away food waste, we can benefit the soil by composting it.

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