Food waste is a huge problem globally. About one-third of the global food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost, amounting to 1.3 billion tons a year, according to UN estimates. The Boston Consulting Group study estimates that by 2030 annual food loss and waste will reach 2.1 billion tons worth $1.5 trillion.
A 2016 law in France bans grocery stores from throwing away food that is still edible. Under the law, grocery stores have to donate the food to charities. According to NPR, 5,000 charities in the country depend on the food bank network and they receive almost half of their donations from grocery stores. Grocery stores that throw away edible food can be fined $4,500 (€3,224) per violation. Parliamentarian Guillaume Garot, who wrote the law, said, “It’s changed the supermarkets’ practices. They’re more attentive to their environment, and they give more.”
“France is not the country that wastes the least food, but they have become the most proactive because they want to be the exemplary country in Europe,” Marie Mourad, a PhD student in sociology at Sciences Po in Paris and author of several reports on food waste in France, told The Christian Science Monitor.
France ranked in the number one spot on the 2017 Food Sustainability Index. Developed by the The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, the Index highlights the best food sustainability practices in various countries.
Jacques Bailet, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of food banks in France, said to The Guardian in 2016, after the law passed, that “because supermarkets will be obliged to sign a donation deal with charities, we’ll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute.”
North American cities are taking steps to reduce food waste
Food waste in North America causes 193 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 e) for the life-cycle of food that ends up in landfills, according to a recent report. North American countries, along with Oceanic countries, have the highest estimated per-capita food loss and waste globally. That means that much food is being lost or wasted in the U.S. and Canada.
The good news is that some North American cities are doing something to reduce food waste. In New York City, some food service establishments and food manufacturers are required by law to separate organic waste. The city has set a goal of sending zero waste of any kind to landfills. Two West Coast cities are taking steps to reduce food waste. In Seattle, families can be fined for throwing away food scraps in the garbage, and the city offers compost collection services. The city of San Francisco offers free kitchen composting pails, consultations, bin labels, signs and other services to help businesses reduce food waste.
Ways you can reduce your food waste
Here are some suggestions on ways you can reduce food waste in your home:
Meal Plan. Plan out your meals for the week and only buy what you know you will use.
Use Perishables before they go bad. Only buy the perishables you will need, instead of buying in bulk, buy what you require.
Freeze extras. If you buy too much, try freezing it and using it later. For fruits or veggies, you could puree it and freeze it in ice cube trays to used in smoothies later.
Check expiration dates. When you are shopping reach to the back of the refrigerator section for the “fresher” items that will have a longer expiration date.
Pick ugly produce. Just because it doesn’t look attractive doesn’t mean it is bad. Think about how you will be using it (i.e. in a stir-fry or sauce), it may not matter how pretty it is.
These are a few ideas to get you started in limiting food waste. If you have great ideas, share them in the comments.