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Causes and consequences of food waste

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4 months ago
4 months ago
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Plate with leftovers

Waste of food is a big ethical problem - and it pollutes the environment. Food waste occurs throughout the entire production chain, from initial production to private households. At the same time, it would be easy to avoid a large part of the waste.

About a third of all food produced worldwide is not consumed, but thrown away. Waste is a big ethical problem - and it pollutes the environment. For more than 900 million people worldwide are starving. In addition, energy, water and land are used unnecessarily to produce and transport the unused food and fertilizers and pesticides are used. It causes greenhouse gas emissions of more than three gigatons.

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At the same time, it is challenging to ensure food security in the future as well. This is indicated by the World Food Organization (FAO) in its World Food Day information on 16 October 2016. Climate change is threatening food production in many parts of the world, while the world population continues to grow.

Food waste is increasingly being discussed publicly. For example, the documentary "Taste The Waste", which was released in 2011, caused quite a stir. A large number of private and state initiatives are committed against waste and have developed solutions. Because in hardly any other area is it so easy to avoid waste.

What does "food waste" mean?

The FAO differentiates between two areas of food waste: food losses and food waste.

As food losses, FAO refers to the portion that is lost or spoiled before the product is finished or on the market. These include, for example, potatoes that fall from the trailer at harvest. Such losses can be caused by a variety of causes during harvesting, storage, packaging or transport.

The FAO describes it as waste when food suitable for consumption is thrown away or spoiled. These include, for example, bananas, which are thrown away in the trade, because their shell has become stained. Causes of the waste are, for example, misunderstandings on the best before date, incorrect storage or disadvantageous shopping and cooking habits.

The waste also differs depending on whether it is avoidable. It is unavoidable, for example, that in the preparation of food, the non-edible components of food are removed. These include, for example, banana peels or bones. Partially avoidable are food wastes that arise due to habits. For example, many people peel apples, while others like to eat apples. Waste is considered to be avoidable if the food was still edible at the time of disposal or if it had been edible if consumed in good time.

How are the losses?

Food waste occurs throughout the entire production chain, from initial production to private households.

The European Environment Agency lists the following sources and proportions of food waste:

  • Source and share causes
  • households
  • 42 percent
  • too much bought
  • bad storage
  • Confusion of products
  • Disposing and product parts, for example apple peel and crusted bread
  • Preparation of large portions, leftovers are thrown away
  • manufacturing
  • 39 percent
  • By-products such as animal carcasses and bones from meat production
  • committee
  • Damaged products
  • overproduction
  • gastronomy
  • 14 percent
  • Too large portions, guests may not take leftovers
  • Difficulty in planning demand
  • Wholesale and retail
  • 5 percent
  • temperature changes
  • Aesthetic standard
  • packaging defects
  • excess inventory

What role do consumer habits play?

A special role in food waste is played by consumer habits and their interactions with production and trade.

Thus, large quantities of food are sorted out in the trade, because they are no longer visually perfect or because the best before date is reached soon.

In part, there are also standards and regulations on the quality of food that lead to waste. Often quoted are alleged or actual EU regulations. In fact, there was a decree stating that crooked cucumbers are no more than quality cucumbers.

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