Food waste doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In a world where everyone has food security and where food production is not in itself wasteful we could all compost much of our food waste and use it to produce food in our own gardens.
However, that’s not the world we live in.
Many people do not have enough food and even in developed countries, they rely on food banks to get enough to eat.
And food waste can lead to a ton of other problems when human consumption is unconcerned about food loss and waste after the eating is done.
5 Ways That Wasting The Food Produced Hurts The Planet
There are many ways that food waste occurs and many ways that food waste harms the planet.
But we asked some friends at the UN’s Food And Agriculture Organization what the worst impacts of your food waste were on the planet and this is what they told us.
Waste Food = Waste Water
It’s possible to grow food for free if you know how but what’s not free is the water supply that you use to water your food.
All forms of agriculture from crops to animal husbandry require water and the environmental impact of this food production process is huge.
It is estimated that food wastage runs to an incredible 1.3 billion tons of produce each year. That’s a lot of uneaten food and so much food being thrown out leads to the equivalent of 45 trillion gallons of wasted water.
That’s nearly a quarter of all the water used in the production of food!
Food Waste = Greenhouse Gas Emissions
While food production and transport can create carbon dioxide, when your food is thrown out it creates other greenhouse gases and mainly methane.
Methane emissions are about 25 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide emissions.
Nearly 20% of all greenhouse gasses and emissions come from methane and the more food wastage that we create? The more methane that we release.
If you want to stop the climate crisis? One of the easiest things you can do to help is to start preventing food waste. Yes, even our favorite aphrodisiac foods can harm the planet when discarded carelessly.
It Generates Oil Waste!
This might sound ridiculous as there are very few food products (excluding margarine which has fallen out of favor in recent years) that contain actual oil.
But you’re not taking into account all the resources used to get food from a field to your table.
In fact that lovely nutritious food requires oil, diesel, and fossil fuels to grow, bring it from the field to the processor and then transport it, effectively store it and cook it.
The food industry consumes a lot of precious resources and has a much higher environmental footprint than you might think.
Whenever we fail to reduce food waste, we are wasting the resources that were used to make all the food that we waste.
In addition, these oil-based processes can be responsible for the release of potent greenhouse gas emissions too. So, you’re driving climate change too.
Wasted Food Means Wasted Land
Our food supply requires two different categories of natural land – that used in the production stage from growing animal feed to produce meat to fields for crops.
It also includes the physical land for processing that food and packaging it as well as the grocery stores that sell it.
In addition, there’s a bunch of non-arable land that is being devoted to landfills and that’s where much of our food waste ends up, particularly if you live in a place with poor infrastructure for recycling in place.
The environmental consequences of this might not seem obvious at first but this contributes to food insecurity around the world and over time the natural resources that make the land fertile can be used up (this is a process known as degradation) if the land is not managed properly.
The natural flora dies off and eventually, the soil itself becomes barren as with China’s Gobi Desert.
The Destruction Of Food Means The Destruction Of Biodiversity
Finally, the more food we harvest, the more of the world we kill off – either deliberately or by accident.
The deforestation of rainforests is mainly taking place so that it is easier to be feeding livestock. Growing additional food requires more land and thus, more deforestation.
Marine ecosystems are particularly under threat as overfishing doesn’t just destroy the species which are being fished but also other species caught up in nets that have no commercial value.
Final Thoughts On Wasting Food
Hungry people should be fed. Ideally, by people who understand the economics of sustainable food.
But growing food should be done to feed our global population and we need to bring an end to what is wasted globally.
The world will be a better place for it.