Ransom Stats #10


Waste not want not

If you look at the food in your fridge – or worse still your bin – what do you see. The leftovers from last nights dinner, perhaps some ‘out of date’ vegetables or the remains of a bag of salad that’s seen better days? If that’s the case, it’s safe to say you’re not alone. The food we eat – and the food we waste – is a very serious problem and by all accounts it’s only getting worse.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) it’s estimated 1.3bn tonnes of food is lost or wasted globally each year – a report earlier this year from the UK’s Institute of Mechanical Engineers put the figure higher at as much as 2bn tonnes. That breaks down to a staggering one-third of all food produced around $1 trillion which is lost or wasted in production and consumption systems. To put that another way, imagine you’re out on a Friday night and every third drink you bought you just poured on the floor. Suddenly that wilting salad doesn’t look quiet so unappetising.

The financial side isn’t any less alarming either, it’s estimated the average UK family could save up to 680 a year and the UK hospitality sector 724m a year by dealing with this on going issue. But just where does the root of the problem lie. 

The FAO statistics report that in developing countries unintentional losses at the early stages of the food supply chain – technical, financial and managerial constraints such as storage, harvesting techniques and retail infrastructure – are responsible for 95% of food wasted. 

However when they looked at the developed world alarmingly it was the other end of the chain causing the problem. Inefficient practices and quality standards which place an over emphasis on appearance – both on a manufacturing and retail level –  have led to large quantities of food being squandered. On going confusion with date labels and use by/sell by dates coupled with overbuying and bad storage has meant consumers in Europe and North America/Oceania waste per capita between 95kg and 115kg a year. Put that in comparison with sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia where they throw away 6kg to 11kg a year each and the scope of the problem is clear.

So what can we do about it. Whilst we might not be able to change the manufacturing and retail practices just yet – although there are plenty of people out there lobbying on this – we can do a lot to reduce the waste we produce at home. From cooking smaller portions – to avoid excess which then gets thrown away – to simply buying less in the first place, the responsibility really does fall with us on this one.

Thanks to The FAO and Wwap for this weeks vital statistics.

Ian Pither (Ransom Statistician)