Tonnes of food is wasted every year. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry is a huge contributor to this problem: A study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up as waste. (pos.toasttab.com)
Food waste is food that is lost during the processing stages of food; either manufacturing, processing, packing or storage, and lastly during consumption by consumers.
As defined, the exact definition is very controversial, often being defined as food that sustains life on the planet rather than for human consumption. Some people consider animal products as waste, while others see them as a valuable resource in our efforts to reduce waste and sustain life.
On a national level, food waste is a problem that has been growing steadily over the years due to a variety of environmental factors such as contamination of water sources and landfills, inadequate handling techniques and inadequate packaging. This increasing problem has been highlighted by organizations working towards creating a more sustainable society.
On a daily basis, individuals (both staff and consumers) should be working towards reducing any kitchen food waste. Ways to do this are as follow:
Check on fresh fruits regularly
How you prepare a menu can help reduce restaurant food waste
Portion control can have an effect on excess food waste
Be sure to regularly check your fridge or cupboard for any expiry dates to reduce food spoilage and waste
Unused food that expires, food scraps, waste in restaurants, thrown away imperfect foods are all types of waste. In addition to the waste angle, bad foods can cause food poisoning.
Environmental Impact of Food Waste
The growing concern over food waste and its negative environmental impacts can be traced back to the early twentieth century when a research program was launched to reduce the amount of food waste that was produced in America.
A study conducted in the early part of this century showed that for every one hundred grams of food produced in the US, and almost unbelievable five tons of trash were created.
Much of this food waste could be traced back to the large-scale food industry and food processing plants, showing advances in technology don’t always have great results. These large-scale food processing plants had a very large impact on the amount of uneaten food that ended up in our trash facilities each day. The majority of surplus food produced in the US went to the landfill.
What Can Be Done To Reduce Food Waste?
With this in mind, it is important to identify what one can do to help reduce food waste. By developing a better understanding of how the food supply chain works and how waste can affect the food chains, we can take steps to help reduce and ultimately eliminate global food loss. The drive to reduce food costs has sometimes been followed to the detriment of food waste issues.
One of the first steps is to properly recycle both raw foods and cooked food. One-third of household waste is sent to the landfill by individuals. This means that nearly a third of all household waste is wasted that could be recycled.
There are many sources of food waste. Common trash is paper, food containers, plastic bags, and aluminum cans. One-third of food waste is generated from food packaging. This includes frozen food that has not been thawed, canned goods that have not been properly drained and refilled, and food waste that stem from the fertilizers and pesticides used on conventional farming. The problem with these kinds of products is that they have already gone through a process to make them ready to sell.
Food safety is an important topic that Food Handlers need to be aware of. If use-by dates have been reached nobody is suggesting food businesses should still try and use it. Whether it be food from restaurants or from supermarkets, food quality and the health and safety of consumers needs to be paramount.
There are many different ways that food waste is produced in the US. One way is through the consumption of food products that are contaminated. This may come in the form of tainted water, food that has been improperly cooked, or meat that has been improperly stored. Each of these types of contaminated food produces thousands upon thousands of tons of food waste per year.
Another way that food loss occurs in the US is through the feeding of our nation’s livestock. Livestock in the United States are considered the biggest consumers of agricultural land and feeds. If this food is not properly cared for then it can run off the land and pollute surrounding areas. The result of this is often harmful to the local wildlife and plants that live in these areas. This is one of the leading causes of food losses.
One of the ways that people can help reduce food waste in the US is to properly dispose of food waste generated during preparation and feeding. Another way to reduce food waste per se is to properly clean up any raw fruits and vegetables before using them. In addition, some farmers and businesses have reduced their food wastes by using proper shelving systems and improving inventory management.
The food waste problem that the United States is facing today is a global problem. Countries throughout Europe have developed solutions to reduce this problem by handling their waste both inside and outside of the country.
In the United States, the problem is much more complicated, but there are solutions available. We just need to keep an open mind and look at what is working elsewhere.
Commercial Food Waste
Commercial kitchens are one of the massive contributors to food waste. Take-away boxes that decompose are another great way for restaurants to reduce waste that is not environmentally friendly going to the dumps.
Many restaurants are starting to use these refill machines as a means to help reduce food waste and in turn help reduce the amount of garbage produced. This is very good news for the environment because the less food waste created, the less trash is produced.
The number one reason for the accumulation of food waste in the US is the large amount of leftover food, which is often discarded before it ever makes it out of the kitchen.
Waste management is a big issue in the developed countries and in fact, it is considered to be an ethical issue because people in the western world try to consume as much food as they can, even when it does not need to be used immediately.
The over-consumption of available food is another contributor to excessive amounts of food waste. It is a fact that too much food can lead to over-nutrition which can result in serious health problems. Nobody is advocating starvation but we should be more aware of the amounts of food consumed. Proper food waste management would be improved by ensuring a balanced diet and this would have the added benefit of preventing obesity in the process.
There are different ways of assessing food wastage in the USA. A recent study has shown that Americans throw out 14.6 tons of edible foods every year which is more than the annual waste produced by industry.
Furthermore, the cost of food products consumed daily in the US is also a significant factor that contributes to the high food wastage rate. The best way to curb this problem is to shift towards organic and green diets and decrease the number of meat and processed foods consumed daily and made available in menu options. Being aware of the problem and acting accordingly is the first step.