About one third of the food produced in the world is wasted each year. That's 1.3 billion tons of food thrown away or not consumed! Food waste also wastes the water, land and energy needed to produce that food and it contributes to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.(1-2)
By 2022, according to research conducted by the National Zero Waste Council, 63% of the food that Canadians throw away could have been consumed. For the average Canadian household, this represents 140 kg of food thrown away annually, a bill of over $1,300 per year.(3)
Despite this enormous waste, more than 4 million Canadians are experiencing food insecurity and a growing number of people must rely on food banks, including many seniors.(4)
What can explain food waste and what can we do to prevent it?
What the research tells us
A recent systematic review of 233 articles examined the issue of food waste.(1) The review identified four factors influencing food consumption and management decisions.
- Psychological factors, such as positive emotions, attitudes and habits, as well as environmental and civic awareness positively influence individual behaviours.
- Social norms influence people's intention not to waste food. For example, if you have always seen your parents cooking and being careful not to throw away food, you will tend to avoid or reduce food waste.
- Geographic factors have an influence too. People who live in urban areas tend to waste more food than people living in rural areas.
- Demographic and socioeconomic factors affect wasteful behaviours. A large body of scientific literature confirms that younger people tend to waste more than older people. Also, the higher the education level of an individual, the more food they waste. Also, the larger the family, the less food is wasted per person, although larger households tend to waste more than smaller households.
Are there solutions to reduce waste?
Waste occurs throughout the food production chain, from farm to table. There are some simple things you can do to reduce it:
- Plan your menus and make a grocery list. Click here for tips on how to plan your meals wisely.
- Don't succumb to the temptations of marketing offers that lead consumers to make impulsive purchases or bulk purchases (especially of perishable foods).
- Don't routinely throw away foods that are close to their expiration date. The "best before" date is only an indication of the freshness and potential shelf life of unopened foods. Click here to help you interpret shelf life.
- Use your fridge wisely. Some parts of your fridge are warmer than others. Knowing the different sections of the fridge will help you to store your food better. Click here for a guide to know your fridge better.
- Cook with a group. It's hard to cook for one person because the quantities you buy are often too large. Find out about group cooking initiatives in your community - it's a great way to socialize and avoid food waste.
- Compost your food waste instead of throwing it in the garbage, if possible.