Over 1.3 billion tonnes of food grown globally is wasted each year. In total, that’s about a third of all food produced for human consumption. This wasted food takes its toll on the environment due to the sheer amount of fresh water, land and labour it takes to produce and is responsible for over 3 gigatonnes of carbon emissions each year. If the waste was a country itself, it would be the third highest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world. Britain is one of the worst culprits in Europe, with over 15 million tonnes per year feeding no one.
Below is a list of the seven most wasted food and a couple of tips to make you think before you throw. If you’re interested in green living, consider taking your next holiday in one of our eco pods and leave nothing behind but the right kind of footprints.
The production of meat affects the environment in all kinds of ways, from climate change to deforestation. The resources that are used to raise the animals are responsible for 14.5% of total global emissions which is more than all forms of transport put together. Despite the effort put into rearing animals for food, there is over 570,000 tonnes of it wasted each year – equivalent to £1,300,000. That’s about 50 million chickens, 1.5 million pigs and 100,000 beef cows and the worst part is that nearly half of it could be reused. Try and cut down your meat intake altogether and go vegetarian for a few days a week, you’ll surprise yourself at how easy you find it. Failing that, meat-lovers should think of creative ways to reuse left-over meat with stews, soups and anything else you can come up with.
A surprising addition to the most wasted foods, but up to a third of each green bean sold is cut off before it goes to market. The short and straight packaging does not accommodate the long and bendy nature of the bean very well, meaning mass waste is inevitable. Those beans that do not fulfil the requirements in terms of size, shape or colour are wasted entirely, with some farmers claiming to waste 40% of their entire crop. Buy local to avoid this needless waste.
It takes approximately 1,286 litres, or 16 bath tubs-full of water to make a loaf of bread. This amount of fresh water could have supplied nearly 500 people with enough to drink for a day and yet Tesco threw away 41% of its bakery goods in 2013. In other words, enough water to quench the thirst of those 500 people for 40,000 years. It’s time to turn your stale bread into croutons and breadcrumbs, which can always be frozen and saved for a later date.
Fisherman are restricted on the type and range of fish they can sell, but have no control over what swims into their nets. This means they can throw away anywhere between 40-60% of all the fish they catch each year. It’s time to have more guts when it comes down to your Friday night fish, and pick less common cuts to make the most of the fish that do make it through the vetting process.
Milk goes on quite the journey to end up bottled on shelves at the local supermarket. The process is equal to 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. If you find yourself pouring milk down the sink instead of on your cornflakes, start monitoring your buying and keeping habits. Keep long life milk at home to tie you over between bottles and if you’re feeling really brave, pop some in the freezer.
Hilariously shaped carrots are a source of enjoyment for allotment owners for years – but supermarkets refuse to stock them. Food waste charity Feedback visited one Kenyan exporter and found that an average of 50% of carrots were rejected for cosmetic reasons. This is despite evidence that the general public embrace oddly shaped vegetables. Support incentives such as Asda’s Wonky Box, which is full of those vegetables that didn’t quite make the cut.
Time to stop buying salad for the sake of buying salad. The Soil Association reckons that a remarkable 20-40% of salad is binned simply because it looks a bit weird. With millions starving all over the globe, this doesn’t seem quite right. It’s time to say yes to limp and slightly discoloured lettuce and say no to mindless waste.