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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Feature: Tackling Household Food Waste

Everyone knows that we often eat too much, but those extra calories are not only a threat to our health -- they're also a threat to global security.

The costs associated with food waste are significant: the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of food produced to feed people globally is lost as it moves from field to plate.

Source: Thinkstock

Food waste not only costs money but it's a major contributor in landfills and to the production of greenhouse gases. When food is wasted, the agricultural resources, such as soil and water, that are used to produce the food are also lost.

Some of this food is lost during the production stage to pests, some is lost during harvest or processing, and some is lost in storage.

Household Food Waste

In Canada, 51 percent of food waste is generated in the home, with more than $1,000 a year in food thrown in the kitchen trash per Canadian family.

The fact that food is cheaper now than it used to be exacerbates the situation; consumers are perhaps less worried about maximizing its use. 

Keep in mind, we're not talking about the strawberries or cucumbers that have been hiding in your fridge long enough to cultivate grey fuzz all over or the tomatoes that are wrinkly and covered in gross green splotches. We're talking about edible food that simply gets thrown out.

Why? Partly because we may load our plates with portions we cannot finish, and partly because we throw out food based on best before labels, even if we're not reading them correctly or the food is still good. Mostly, however, we seem to toss food because, unlike many other places on earth, food is cheap to us.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

So, what can we do to help reduce household food waste? Check out some of these tips (source).

1. Take produce out of plastic bags. Airtight wrappings can suffocate fresh produce  and speed up the decay process.

2. Do not wash produce until you are ready to eat it. Moisture encourages decomposition and mould growth, and washing can also remove natural protective coatings on your food.

3. Do not rip off fruit stems; keep produce whole as long as possible. Once living cells are broken, micro-organisms begin to grow.

4. Eat the most perishable food items first. Berries (especially when ripe and in season) last a few days, whereas potatoes and winter squash can last for a month or longer if stored properly.

5. Reorganize your fridge. Some foods are better stored in the fridge, while others, such as winter squash, avocados, garlic, and tubers fair better on the counter or in a dark, dry cupboard..

6. If you have food scraps remaining, put them into your green bin for food scraps or your home compost. If you live in an apartment and/or do not have access to a food scrap recycling program or a composter, consider diverting food scraps from the landfill by bringing household food waste to your local Food Scraps Drop Spot. (Want to learn more? Check out our Composting Series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)


BBC Horizons, "Food waste: Looking at ways to reduce global food wastage"
Globe and Mail, "How much in food do Canadians waste a year?"
CBC News, "Food waste, overeating threaten global security"
Edmonton Journal, "Canadians trash $27 billion worth of food a year"

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