All food produced in the orchards, fields, pastures, greenhouses, ranches, and fisheries of the world is ultimately intended for human consumption. Ideally, every plum, sardine, or cut of pork will successfully progress through the various steps of the food supply to meet the urgent needs of feeding a growing world population.
Each year the world produces enough calories to feed all people on a primarily vegetarian diet, yet due to complexities, inefficiencies, and inconsistencies in the food system, many still go hungry. And demand continues to grow, so much so that it is estimated that food production would need to increase by up to 70% by 2050 to feed the world’s 9 billion people if current production and consumption patterns remain unchanged.
This would require an increase of 120 million hectares of arable land for agricultural production in developing countries. It is projected that arable land in developed countries could decline by 50 million hectares due to degradation such as erosion, desertification and unsustainable use.
The decline in arable land is exacerbated by water scarcity and warming from climate change. This required increase in production is calculated based on a less than perfect nutritional system.
Staggering evidence of the inefficiency and absurdity of our current food system is the fact that a third of the edible food produced worldwide, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is wasted or lost.
And this is in a world where there are nearly 8 billion people in hunger. Food waste and loss and its associated environmental, social and economic impacts have become an issue of growing global concern.
Resources are also wasted. This only exacerbates the food insecurity that is experiencing around the world. The problem is not without complexity. However, it is the lowest and laziest fruit on which concerted action can focus because great inefficiencies suggest great opportunities.
The first problem is that terminology is confusing and definitions are not universally agreed upon. There is a difference between “food loss” and “food waste”.These processes take place at various stages of the food supply chain, which includes agricultural production, harvesting, post-harvest storage and handling, processing, packaging or distribution, retail and end use.
In the current literature, food lost in the post-harvest phase is commonly referred to as “food loss” and “spoilage”, while in later stages of the food supply chain it is referred to as “food waste” and referred to generically as for food losses due to behavioral problems (e.g. consumer behavior). Typically, anything identified as “trash” has little or no value. Food, especially edible food, should be anything other than called “waste”.
Large-scale urbanization that has accelerated food demand and agricultural sector expansion diet shift towards more diversified and resource-intensive foods globalization and world trade driving the increase in processed products, supermarkets and international competition in local markets. It is also important to consider the packaging in which food is stored, distributed, displayed and purchased by the consumer.
While an estimated $11.4 billion from recyclable packaging is wasted each year, it is accepted that the environmental impact it is less serious than the impact of food waste. In the US, for example, steaks can be produced and discarded same amount of carbon needed to produce a steak.
Food packaging plays a critical role in food safety and improving food shelf life. Although packaging can reduce food loss and waste, more time, money and effort should be invested in reducing, reusing and recycling food packaging.
10 million tonnes of food are wasted every year in South Africa. This accounts for a third of the 31 tonnes produced annually in South Africa. Fruits, vegetables and grains together account for 70% of wastage and loss. In South Africa, this waste and loss occurs primarily at the beginning of the food supply chain. The percentage of the total weight of household waste collected in different households will be as follows: 27% in low-income areas, 13% in middle-income areas and 17% in high-income areas. , Western Cape, showed that slum households generate between 5.2 and 9.6 kg of food waste per week.
In the developing countries these processes take place mainly in the initial stages of the food supply chain, while in the developed and industrialized countries they take place in the final stages. On a per capita basis, much more food is wasted in the developed world for a variety of reasons.
For example, in Europe and North America, the attitudes and behaviors of grocery retailers and consumers influence inefficient and unsustainable planning and consumption. In contrast, Africa and Asia generate food loss and waste due to financial and managerial constraints and poor infrastructure. Southeast Asia is the one of least contributors to food loss and, followed by sub-Saharan Africa. Taken together, their food losses and waste per capita total ,460 kg per year, while the combined figures for Europe, North America and Oceania are double that at 900 kg per year.
Throwing away half a hamburger is equals a 60-min shower with a water-saving showerhead
Leaving a bite of steak on your plate is run the dishwasher 22 times
Spilling a teaspoon of sugar is roughly the equivalent of flushing the toilet twice
A teaspoon of milk wasting is equivalent to flushing the toilet twice
Wasting a quart of milk is six full baths
Flushing half a cup of orange juice is equivalent to flushing the toilet 12 times
Letting a clementine rot is equivalent to flushing the toilet three times
An apple or rotting a pear is equivalent to taking a 3 minute shower or flushing the toilet four times.