I live in a country that is seen as one of the “best countries” to live in, Norway. Usually, countries that are qualified for those lists have broad access to food and housing, quality education and health care, good job security, political stability, individual freedom, and environmental quality. Although we often can’t find major humanitarian, social problems like poverty, lack of education, or even street animal problems in Norway. I want to address this project to a more climatic problem, that is indeed affecting and found in the whole world: Waste of food.
I perceive the climate as one of the most important things in this world. It does not matter what kind of a good job you have, how much money you earn or even how good you think your life is if we can’t take care of the one place that is required for all of this: the earth. Even the smallest things can make a change in the climate in a positive direction.
I often thought the biggest pollution threats come from transportation, plastic firms, and manufacturers until when I saw a documentary about food waste. The amount of pollution that comes from the waste of food is so big that in fact, if food waste had been a nation, it would have been the 3rd country that has the most pollution in the world.
During those difficult times with a world pandemic going on, it made me look at some ignorant people we have, the ones that hoard a lot of unnecessary food.
Not only are they a threat to the ones that really need it but they are not aware of the amount of food waste they will create but also not aware of how this has a negative effect on the climate.
361,000 tons of edible food is discarded annually in Norway. This food topping equates to gas emissions of 375,000 cars (1). Reducing food waste is an important global and political issue. The UN has estimated that approx. 1/3 of all food produced in the world is not eaten (2). This is a serious environmental problem as food production occupies 37% of the world’s land area, 70% of fresh water, and 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions (3, 4). For example, 15,000 liters of water are required to produce one kilo of beef and 175 liters to produce one cup of coffee.
Since the production of food requires a lot of recourses that each of them pollutes the air in its own way, the waste of food becomes a serious problem for the climate. It is estimated that food waste at the consumer level in Norway corresponds to 118 kilograms of CO2 equivalents per person per year, which is a total of 615 600 tons of CO2 equivalents per year. The figure includes all greenhouse gases associated with the production, transport, and packaging of the food. Emissions associated with the waste management of packaging and food waste are not included. It also requires resources to dispose of food waste, whether in residual or food waste.
In 2017 approx. 385,000 tons of edible food was thrown. This corresponds to approx. 73 kg per inhabitant, per year. Which leads us to an economic loss of approx. 22 billion NOK and 1.3 million CO2 equivalents per year.
Food waste can today be utilized and used in among things like biogas plants. Nevertheless, it is 10 times more climate-efficient to prevent food waste from occurring than to make biogas from it. This means that a reduction in food waste will not only have positive economic effects but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
Waste of food does also an equal waste of money. It’s obvious, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like we’re actually thinking about it: it costs money to produce and buy food. According to the Norwegian Consumer Agency, the food waste per consumer level in Norway is estimated to have a value equivalent to NOK 2 677 per person per year. In total, this means that we throw food in the garbage for a value of about NOK 14 billion a year. It costs kroner and pennies, but also in the form of considerable human effort and environmental resources.
It is expected that the world’s population will grow from 7.7 billion people in 2019 to almost 10 billion in 2050 (World Bank). According to the FAO, we need to produce 50% more food than in 2012 to have enough food for all the people on Earth by 2050. But today it is true that about 1/3 of the food produced in the world for human consumption is actually discarded or wasted. If we cut down on food waste and instead make better use of food, the food supply will be significantly increased without the need to increase production. That means more food without more pressure on the environment and climate.
While much of the food produced today is discarded, 821 million people in the world suffer from malnutrition. If we manage to distribute more of the food produced to those who need it, we can in theory end hunger. If we had managed to exploit as little as ¼ of the global food waste, then 870 million people could have been saturated.
However, while the solution to the starvation problems in the world has a more complex answer than just food waste. According to the World Food Program, poverty, lack of investment in agriculture, war and humanitarian disasters, unstable food markets, and food wastes are the main causes of 821 million people starving.
Food waste is not just about what you throw away home in your kitchen. It is also about good resource utilization on the farms where the food is produced. In animal production, which leads us to how animal health is involved. According to the Veterinary Institute, Norwegian agriculture has worked systematically with animal health for many years, which results in productive and healthy animals. This, in turn, leads to a small decrease in livestock production in the case of a few outbreaks of disease and emergency slaughter.
Good animal health and healthy animals in Norwegian agriculture also mean that we do not need to use any particular antibiotics. Compared to livestock production in other European countries, Norway has the lowest consumption of antibiotics. Low antibiotic consumption also contributes to less food waste, for example by the fact that there is less milk that is withheld from the market due to the medication of the cows.
It is no secret that we need to have food to survive. In order to minimize the burden on our planet with our food consumption, the food should be produced sustainably, while ensuring that as little as possible is wasted. If we have to throw away food, we should remember to throw it in the food waste – then it will be recycled for biogas (energy) and nutrient-rich fertilizers.
Whom can we blame for this? Is it the consumers or the producers? The waste of food usually comes from different factors like:
Although we can’t point at a specific reason for food waste, we can agree that the common problem is often lack of evaluation. Humans tend to not know their limits, not know how much they need, and also evaluate their purchases. This leads to both producers and consumers not being able to know how much to buy or even produce.
To help me out with the reduction of food waste in Norway I would like to get in touch with: Too Good To Go. This non-governmental organization created an app with a concept to reduce food waste with discounts on groceries which is almost is expired and discounts in restaurants who experience food surplus.
Too Good To Go helps both consumers and producers to reduce the waste of food by helping producers selling their food surplus which they usually would throw away because they can’t sell it, in this way they also can earn money on food they usually would just throw away but also customers will benefit in an economical way. People often think food that is leftover at restaurants and cafes can’t be eaten but in fact, they will usually have a durability of 3 days if contained in the right way.
One important factor that they have a role in, is in grocery stores. In my project, I want to try to reduce the amount of impact and role grocery stores have on food waste. Too Good To Go helps groceries that usually would expire and help shops sell them at a discounted price. I would like to create safety in consumers because people usually think expired groceries are not safe to eat or unhealthy, which leads them to not even buy if it’s discounted. To create a campaign with Too Good To Go and show with research that expired food is not that bad to eat, would be great.
I want my food waste project to focus on not only restaurants and stores to throw less food but how to guide consumers and inform them that food they think isn’t edible is indeed edible. I want to create a project with Too Good To Go, where we collab to create an app where you will get tips and recipes on dinners with only the things you have in the fridge.
I also want to create a campaign with the major grocery stores, where they advertise in their stores on food buying awareness to not buy more than you need. I would in addition like to contact the main grocery product manufacturers and ask them to write something different than the expiry date on their products, in my opinion, write a note besides that says, in fact, something like: “usually still edible after the expire date”.
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