Our society is extremely wasteful. We never had so much and thrown so much away, treating everything from clothes to electronics as disposable when the next fad comes along.
With our brains now wired to discard rather than care for and repair, it is perhaps not surprising that food is one thing we waste.
A new report from the United Nations estimates that 17 per cent, or 1.03 billion tons, of the food produced around the world each year, is wasted.
When we consider that there are parts of the world, and even people here in Canada who are starving or going hungry, this figure is heartbreaking.
So just how does Canada stack up? Not well. The average Canadian wastes 79 kilograms of food each year, which is more than both the United States and Britain. Further, 61 per cent of food waste happens at home. So we can’t just keep on keeping on while pointing the finger at retailers, restaurants, farms and factories.
We think this kind of waste is likely a new phenomenon. If you go to your grandmother’s cookbooks, you will find numerous recipes for leftovers and things you can make with such foods as over-ripe fruit (banana bread, anyone?). But at some point, for a particular segment of the population, the ability to avoid eating leftovers became a point of pride. There are far too many households that will cook an entire roast chicken, eat what they can in one meal, and discard the rest. No shepherd’s pie or casseroles or roast beef sandwiches for these families. A meal is one and done. Before we all had refrigerators and freezers to store our food, this might have made some sense. It makes none today.
Further, one can only imagine that when these folks head out to a restaurant and have food left on their plates at the end of the meal, there is no asking for a take-out container to enjoy the feast for the next day’s lunch.
And that’s just a deliberate sort of waste. Think of all the trips to the grocery store where our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we wind up with a head of lettuce, a half dozen tomatoes and more that we barely touch if we touch them at all. If you’re not worried about your pocketbook, consider that the UN report says that an estimated eight to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food waste.
It all adds up to a sobering picture. We can and should do better.