Households and the Food Waste Problem
Up to 40% of the contents of household bins is food! Households are responsible for the largest portion of all food waste. This is a statement that we need to focus on, each and every one of us, because it’s about us.
Food waste is a global issue that needs to be tackled now more than ever. A third of the food that should be eaten, is wasted. When you think about it, that number is huge. Throughout the food’s different stages, from production until consumption, food is wasted for reasons that are not even logical or fair for the environment.
However, the shocking yet not surprising aspect, is that at homes, food waste is at its worst. Most people are not aware of how much food they throw away daily from uneaten leftovers or spoiled produce..Let’s delve deeper into how food is easily wasted by households.
How is food wasted at home?
About two-thirds of food wasted at home results from unused food gone bad (Kiely, K., & York, 2017). Half of the food spoiled or gone bad at home happens when we don’t store it properly.It gets lost at the back of cupboards and fridges. As well as partially used ingredients that remain unutilized on the side.
Date Label Confusions
The expiry dates or date labels on food products can be misleading for many consumers. A large amount of safe food is wasted due to confusion about the printed dates on packages, e.g., “sell by,” “best if used by,” “expires by,” and so forth.
These dates might highlight the quality of food and how fresh it is, but they don’t necessarily mean that the food is spoiled and cannot be used or consumed after that date. The ‘sell by’ date that we sometimes see on the packaging is just an indication for the sellers, on peak quality but not on the safety of the food (Grocery Shopper Trends 2015).
Around 20% of all the food bought is wasted. That amounts to 1 in 5 bags of groceries bought being thrown away (Pullen, N., 2016). One side is that people often do not check their cupboards before going grocery shopping or do not create food lists. They end up overbuying due to inaccurate estimates of ingredients they will use each/every week.
Another reason for overbuying is the exposure to sales and promotions on unusual products that encourage impulse and bulk food purchases, provoking consumers to buy items that do not fit into their regular meal plans (Wasted-report, 2017).
Over-Preparing and Leftovers
How many people are cooking more than what they need for their meals? By what amount are they exceeding their portions? This is one of the most apparent reasons for food being wasted on a daily basis at homes.
For sure keeping leftovers to eat the next day lessens the issue of food waste, however when those leftovers are forgotten at the back of the fridge and spoil, it leads to what we were trying to prevent… food thrown out.
Impromptu take away food, or restaurant outings lead to these meals being thrown out. Yes, we can’t always say no to lunch outings or craving a take away meal every time, but the consequences are badly managed.
Poor planning is attributable to no-meal prepping and over shopping. People who don’t consider meal prepping, tend to waste more food because they unconsciously buy more than the required amount or simply to have a wider range of food choices, but end up with an excess of food that is ultimately thrown away.
The poor planning for the daily or weekly meals, lead to a chain reaction that ends up in food waste.
Food is lost for different reasons throughout its stages, from agriculture to distribution and long before it reaches stores and homes. However, one of the causes that contribute to food waste is food spoilage at households, date label confusion, overbuying, over-preparing and poor planning. Consumable food that is frequently discarded in households has grave long term consequences.
Most of the food waste is avoidable and it could have been eaten with better planning and management. Isn’t throwing away such a great quantity of food a result of unawareness of actions that could have been easily managed with a tiny tweak to a recipe?
This is one of the many faces of food waste!!
Food Waste Is a Massive Problem—Here’s Why. (n.d.). FoodPrint. https://foodprint.org/issues/the-problem-of-food-waste/
Helmer, J. (2019, February 14). Your Newest Tool to Tackle Food Waste: Meal Prep Mate | NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/your-newest-tool-tackle-food-waste-meal-prep-mate
Jackson, R. (2019, April 24). People waste more food than they think—Here’s how to fix it. Environment. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/people-waste-more-food-than-they-think-psychology
Kiely, K., & York, 2017 New. (2017, October 25). Two-Thirds of Food Wasted at Home in Three Major U.S. Cities Is Edible. NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/media/2017/171024-0
Pullen, N. (2016, March 5). Food Waste Fast Facts—Why is Food Being Wasted—The Green Optimistic. https://www.greenoptimistic.com/food-waste-facts/
Suite 800, & fax: 202-429-4519, V. 22202 | phone: 202-452-8444 |. (2015). Product: U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2015—Full Report: FMI. https://www.fmi.org/forms/store/ProductFormPublic/u-s-grocery-shopper-trends-2015-full-report
Wasted-2017-report.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved 19 March 2021, from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf