Food Wastage

"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread." -- Mahatma Gandhi 

While there is no doubt that wasting food is taking it away from people who do not have it, the problem doesn't end there. The food wasted goes to dumps and then to landfills.

Landfill gas emissions are one of the largest anthropogenic sources of methane especially because of food waste. To prevent these emissions from growing with world population, future Food Wasted best management practices need to be evaluated. 

Some facts and figures

Approximately, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste according to Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year -- approximately 1.3 billion tons -- gets lost or wasted. 
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
  • Over 97% of food waste generated ends up in the landfill (Environmental Protection Agency) which means about 33 million tons of food makes its way to landfills each year (Environmental Protection Agency). 
The objective of a research paper conducted by Wang, Yu-Sheng, et al was to predict FW production for 2025 if present management practices are maintained, and then, to compare the impact of scenario 1: encouraging people to stay in rural areas and compost 75% of their FW, and; of scenario 2, where in addition to scenario 1, composting or anaerobically digesting 75% of urban FW (UFW).

A relationship was established between per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and the population percentage living in urban areas (%UP), as well as production of municipal solid waste (MSW) and UFW. With estimated GDP and population growth per country, %UP and production of MSW and UFW could be predicted for 2025. A relatively accurate (R 2 > 0.85) correlation was found between GDP and %UP, and between GDP and mass of MSW and FW produced. On a global scale, MSW and UFW productions were predicted to increase by 51 and 44%, respectively, from 2005 to 2025. During the same period, and because of its expected economic development, Asia was predicted to experience the largest increase in UFW production, of 278 to 416 Gkg. If present MSW management trends are maintained, landfilled UFW was predicted to increase world CH4 emissions from 34 to 48 Gkg and the landfill share of global anthropogenic emissions from 8 to 10%.

In comparison with maintaining present FW management practices, scenario 1 can lower UFW production by 30% and maintain the landfill share of the global anthropogenic emissions at 8%. With scenario 2, the landfill share of global anthropogenic emissions could be further reduced from 8 to 6% and leachate production could be reduced by 40%.

A cohesive action is needed against wasting food. The EPA suggests: "If you can't reduce wasted food, divert it from landfills."

  • Nutritious, safe, and untouched food can be donated to food banks to help those in need.
  • Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away. 

Wang, Yu-Sheng, et al. "Methane potential of food waste and anaerobic toxicity of leachate produced during food waste decomposition." Waste management & research 15.2 (1997): 149-167.

Food and Agriculture Organization
Environmental Protection Agency