Food waste is a much bigger problem than most people realise. Wasted food creates around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions - nearly 4 times more than all the world's airlines put together.
According to the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), food waste is the main cause of the loss of forests, grasslands and other critical wildlife habitats.
But what is food waste and what can we do about it in our own lives? Read on to find out how to reduce food waste and some solutions to your kitchen waste problems.
Food waste is defined as food that is either discarded by retailers, due to its colour or appearance, gone past its best before or sell-by date, or plate waste from consumers.
The average UK family wastes around £730 a year, buying food that goes straight into the bin. This could be the half-eaten meal from your plate, food scraps from meal preparation, food that has 'gone off' in the fridge or food that has not been used in time and is no longer edible.
Throwing away food that could be eaten doesn't just waste money. Discarded food is often sent to landfill, where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as it breaks down, contributing to climate change. According to data from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), if the food was removed from UK landfills, it would be like taking one-fifth of all the cars off the road.
It wastes a massive amount of water too. The World Resources Institute reports that 24% of all water used in agriculture is lost through food waste - about 170 trillion litres.
It's easy to be overwhelmed reading the facts, but each household can make a difference by making a few changes to how they shop and eat.
There are different areas you can concentrate on, taking one step at a time, to reduce your food waste:
Go gleaning - Gleaning networks are set up to combat the waste created by food grown by farmers that supermarkets won't buy because it is the wrong size, colour or shape. A third of food grown is wasted because of this.
The Gleaning Network coordinates volunteers to harvest the unsold crops and pass them onto charities such as FareShare and FoodCycle, who then redistribute to people who need them. Gleaning stops food waste right at the farm and helps people get food who wouldn't otherwise.
By keeping on top of what food you buy and use, putting simple systems in place - like planning ahead and keeping track of what's in your cupboards and fridge - you will soon be an expert in reducing food waste.
There are many creative ways to reduce food waste, helping ease the environmental burden and usually saving you money at the same time. By thinking about the food your household creates and consumes each day, you can make positive changes to conserve some of the planet's most valuable resources.
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