Food Waste Management: A Global Dilemma

Co written by  Bipasha Saikia and Bishaldeep Kakati

Food loss and waste

According to Food and Agricultural Organization, every year one-third of the food produced across the globe goes to waste. The staggering amount is a huge concern for humanity, especially when seen alongside the fact that an equally staggering 820 million go hungry every day. Why does this happen?

While many may perceive the proliferation of food chains across the globe as a sign of development and availability of options to have a good time with friends and family; as a responsible inhabitant of this planet, one cannot help but wonder: How does the planet deal with the amount of food waste generated with such high levels of consumption?

A lot is happening these days on the front of climate change and waste management and one cannot seem to retract from the opinion that mushrooming of food outlets at such a killer pace along with many other factors is only worsening the problem.

If one were to trace the origin of the problem of food loss and food waste, we have to start from the process of food production followed by distribution and storage and finally consumption by consumers because it is an occurrence at every stage of this cyclical process.

How many of us eat out of boredom? Gorging on delicacies while watching our favourite shows on Netflix/Amazon Prime is a guilty pleasure we all have partaken. Even going out to dine appears a task let alone eating responsibly. Thus, these days we prefer ordering food online. And the bizarre offers sure propel us to take in their service. This has again compounded the effects of the whole food consumption and waste management crisis.

The Instagram generation is obsessed with food photography that has indeed changed the perception of young minds about food; from a source of energy to a commodity of entertainment. Popular shows like Master Chef have changed people’s idea of food and the concept of buffet restaurants have turned food into an idea of fun and entertainment. Our faulty consumption habits along with the projection of food as a means of entertainment have unimaginable consequences upon the planet. Large gatherings like weddings and parties serve more food than one can possibly eat, leading to colossal food waste. The question arises- can we be a little more responsible with our food habits? Will ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030 be a reality?

We produce more than we need. And the same exerts tremendous pressure on the resources of the planet. Farming requires vast amounts of land and is a water-intensive activity. When food produces with such resources goes to waste, it is a waste of these resources. In India and elsewhere, most of this wasted food ends up in landfills that produce methane over prolonged periods, which is 21 times more harmful than CO2. Shocking is the fact that if food waste was seen as a country, then it would be the third largest contributor to green house gas emissions after United States and China. These concerns had prompted the United Nations to formulate Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 requiring global community to reduce food waste and loss per capita by half by 2030.

The swift rate of increase of food waste has in no time become a global dilemma. And it has now reached such a stage, that food waste management has become one of the most difficult conundrums even for the experts. However, in order to find out the solutions to tackle food waste, it’s apposite for the commons to first understand the various ways via which food gets wasted.

According to the website, an alarming 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced globally is wasted. And this staggering fact is simply enough to break the common perception that food waste occurs only via food items which get discarded at the end of various household activities or ceremonies such as marriage, birthdays etc. In reality, the issue of food waste begins directly at the start of food production process, which includes growing of crops, livestock till the point these are packaged and sold in the market. It is in fact after this point, where produced goods are sold in the market; human beings further worsen the scenario and act as the major barrier to the process of food waste management because of their never ending desires, inappropriate food habits and the careless attitude to fill the dustbins in a precipitous manner.

Food, no doubt, has always been one of the vitals for the population to survive. And one of the solutions to tackle the menace of food waste is available within the ambit of the realization of the importance of food for the population itself. It is estimated that by 2050, the world population would increase to 9.8 billion. And in this regard, the idea or practice of donating surplus food would definitely serve a dual purpose; reduce the menace of food waste and also ensure that the world doesn’t suffer from starvation, especially keeping in mind the ever increasing population graph. So, in order to fulfill this endeavour, countries like France and UK have already taken significant steps like conceptualizing the notion of regular donations of unused food rather than discarding the same. Further by giving proper training to the farmers regarding proper management of produced goods or making use of proper installations like solar-power refrigeration systems, a consequential reduction of food waste can also be achieved in each and every step of food production. In fact, invigorating initiatives like converting food wastes into useful resources like turning coffee cherries into flour or creating ale from leftover bread can also be taken to reduce food waste or sometimes food waste can also be used to produce household energy. However, all these measures would only work if people are properly educated regarding all these perspectives.

Thus stepping into the 21st century, it’s important for the people to realize the grave issue of food waste which has become a global dilemma and thus show their concern over it. But nothing can work in this regard until and unless this issue gets addressed both on a global scale and on a supply chain level, so as to come up with correct measures to reduce the serious predicament of food waste so that it can never hamper the progress of the present as well as the future generation.

Bipasha Saikia and Bishaldeep Kakati are activists




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