Reducing Food Waste

Food waste contributes to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases. According to figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for 2011:

“If global food loss and waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2e after the USA and China.”

The food and drink sector accounts for 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. Ten million tonnes of food waste is produced each year across the supply chain and in people’s homes. When food waste is landfilled, it releases methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, into the atmosphere.

Food waste has further direct and indirect impacts on the environment, both in itself and via the materials used in packaging. These include the loss of resources, additional greenhouse gas emissions involved in the manufacture of packaging, pollution (from both landfill sites and energy-from-waste facilities) and water consumption. Resource waste arises from the loss of the material in the waste itself and its packaging and waste of embedded resources such as energy, water, fertilisers and fuel for transport. For example, energy used for the storage and refrigeration of goods might be wasted.

The approach generally recommended for minimising waste is the waste hierarchy, as shown below for the case of food and drink waste.

For general information about this issue, see the website of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) for general information about food and drink waste and key facts about food surplus and waste in the UK.

Action is being taken right now in Manchester to reduce food waste. FareShare rescue edible food discarded by supermarkets and distribute it to charities, and you’re welcome to get involved in their volunteering programme. Open Kitchen MCR intercept food on its way to being thrown away and transform it into meals and buffets for conferences, meetings, parties and much more.