Are you aware of the ugly truth about food waste?
If you’re not, the below-mentioned figures will shock you and also make you regret your food waste choices!
Food waste: The Social Problem
Did you know that on average a person throws away 50 kg of food every year in Indian homes?
These figures are not made up but actually published in the Food Waste Index Report 2021 published by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).
Can you think of the seriousness of these numbers in a country where almost 189.2 million people are undernourished? (‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’, 2020 report)
Food waste: The Environmental Problem
Out of 43 million tonnes of waste collected in the country, 31 million tonnes of waste is dumped in landfills — enough to fill up landfills and make them much bigger.
But that’s not all. Almost half of the waste collected is organic in nature.
Food waste also has an impact on climate change because it releases methane when it decomposes in landfills. According to the NSWAI, “India is one of the world’s largest emitters of methane from landfills, currently producing around 16 Mt CO2 eq per year, and predicted to increase to almost 20 Mt CO2 eq per year by 2020.”
How to Reduce Food Waste Impact?
That’s why reducing food waste is so important. The less food we waste, the less we need to grow, and the less land and resources we use to produce it.
Reducing wasted food is about making smarter choices when shopping and preparing meals. It’s also about donating extra food to those who need it most.
Tips To Reduce The Food Waste Impact In India
To reduce food waste or lower its impact, first, we need to understand the Food Recovery Hierarchy.
“The Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food.” Says EPA
“The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society, and the economy.” – it also adds
Though the chart itself is self-explanatory, let’s discuss it in detail:
As they say, Prevention is better than cure, and we will start with that only.
Source Reduction suggests lowering the production of food. If you look at WWF’s latest report n food waste statistics, you will shock to know that 1/3rd of the food produced worldwide is never eaten.
Yes, you heard that right!
Much of the food produced gets lost or wasted at the production or supply stage.
Here’s the contribution of each stage of production, supply, and consumption to food waste:
“Farm-stage food waste amounts to 2.2 gigatonnes of CO2 a year, that is 4% of global anthropogenic emissions, while food waste overall, 6-8%.” – The report further adds.
While at the consumer end we can’t control these factors, what source reduction can be for us is to reduce the amount of food that ends up in your trashcan by buying only what you need and planning meals ahead of time.
If you buy smaller quantities, it will be easier to eat everything before it becomes spoiled and has to be thrown away.
But this shouldn’t stop there only. Additionally, we can also use leftovers to make new meals.
Feeding hungry people
In a world where one in nine people do not have enough to eat, donating your leftovers seems far more reasonable than simply throwing them away in the trash can.
Food Banks, an Food Security Foundation of India’s initiative, “offers a food management solution for excess food inventory and helps food businesses to timely save these surplus food products to feed those in need.”
There are also many NGOs that also work for the same cause. You can donate your leftover foods to them, and they will take care of the rest.
Feeding animals can also help reduce the amount of wasted food that ends up in landfills each year.
Many farmers have started incorporating their own livestock into their operations so they can feed them scraps from restaurants and grocery stores instead of throwing them out like trash.
This reduces their dependence on fossil fuels as well as greenhouse gas emissions from transportation trucks.
If the Wasted Food is inedible, it can still be put into good use by employing it in industrial processes for the production of biofuels or biopolymers.
Fats, oil, and grease
Further, fats, oil, and grease obtained from liquid fats and solid meat products can be used as raw materials in the rendering industry. These are further converted into cosmetics, soap, and other products.
They can also be added to anaerobic digesters at wastewater treatment plants to generate renewable energy in the form of biogas.
Composting is unparalleled when it comes to managing organic waste effectively & efficiently. You can check our blog How Composting Is Good For The Environment? to know more about it.
It converts the organic waste into compost by the aerobic reaction so there’s no emission of methane (CH4, the 2nd most emitted Greenhouse gas), and it also promotes the growth of flora that helps lower the carbon dioxide (CO2, the most emitted Greenhouse gas) levels from the environment by absorbing it.
However, in commercial-stage, such as restaurants, offices, etc., manual composting can be a daunting task because of the amount of waste generated every day and the slow pace of composting.
GoClean Organic Waste Composters by Clean India Ventures, helps these bodies to manage their organic waste in a better way with its varied capacity options (25 KG to 1000 KG), and superfast composting (within 24 hours).
Sending your food waste to landfills should be the last resort. And, if you’re doing so, make sure you segregate your waste at the source into materials like plastic, tin, glass, paper, and others.
The segregation at the source facilitates the proper treatment of waste by waste management authorities, so it doesn’t add to a load of landfills.
The bottom line is that India is drowning in garbage, and it’s our efforts & awareness that can pull us out of it and help create a better future for the upcoming generations.
Do follow these tips the next time you are dealing with the leftover food!