Food waste accounts for 8% of greenhouse gasses produced annually and is a squander of production resources that could have been put to better use. Start the fight against food waste within your home with these great tips.
What foods get wasted
A third of the food produced globally never gets consumed with loss and wastage occurring at every stage from farm to table. Food loss generally refers to the dissipation of food at all stages post-harvest up to, but not including, the retail stage. Food waste generally refers to the dissipation of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers.
Fruits and vegetables plus roots and tubers have the highest dissipation of any food category, with close to half of its production ending up unconsumed. This infographic provides a view of how much food is lost and wasted by category.
61% of food waste are generated by households
Why food gets wasted
According to the latest UNEP Food Waste Index report, some 931 billion tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019 globally. 61% of this waste came from households, 23% from food service and 13% from retail.
Drivers for the wastage across these three groups vary. At retail level, they incude over-stocking and quality standards that over-emphasize appearance. At food service level, they include oversized portions and extensive menu options. At household level, they include poor planning, over buying and confusion over date labels.
Food that is discarded and rotting in landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, adding to global warming and climate change. Food waste also represents a squander of the land, water and energy used in production that could have otherwise been put to better use.
Many ways to reduce, reuse or recycle your food waste
How to stop food waste in our homes
So as consumers, how can we join the fight against food waste? Fortunately, there are actions we can take right within our households:
Shop fresh over packaged. Fresh produce constitutes close to half of all food waste due to its short shelf life. Prioritising fresh over packaged or frozen foods goes a long way into reducing waste. And they’re much healthier for you too.
Plan ahead. Avoid unnecessary purchases by planning your grocery list ahead of time and buying only what you need and can use.
Don’t discriminate. Imperfect produce tastes just as good and is just as nutritious.
Store food correctly. Brush up on proper storage for the foods you purchase to avoid premature spoilage.
Freeze it. Contrary to popular belief, frozen foods can be just as nutritious as fresh foods, and stay edible for much longer. Cooking and freezing food before it goes bad is a great way to avoid waste.
Learn to preserve. Pickling, drying, canning, fermenting and curing are all great ways to make food last longer.
Blend, boil, bake. Overripe fruits and wilting vegetables may not look pretty but they are still nutrient-packed and taste great in smoothies, soup stocks, cakes or breads.
Eat the skin. Did you know that many nutrients are located in the outer layer of produce? For example, apple skins contain a large amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Get creative with leftovers. Finish up the leftovers before you shop. There are lots of recipes online that let you get creative with what you have on hand.
Understand “use by” vs “best before” dates. The former are dates that foods shouldn't be consumed after for health or safety reasons. The latter denotes food that should be safe to eat but may have lost some quality past the labelled date.
Compost food scraps. Turn your kitchen waste into “black gold” for your plants. If you don’t have a garden, check if there is a community garden with compost bins near you.
Grow from food scraps. Try your hand at growing your own produce right in your home.
Recycle your coffee grounds. They are high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and make excellent fertilisers for plants.
Share it with your community. Food-sharing platforms like Olio allow you to share your food with people in your neighbourhood. A great way to connect with your community while sharing your excess homemade goodies.
These are just some tips to get you started. There are many more ways you can reduce, reuse or recycle your food waste. And every bit helps to alleviate the impacts on our environment.
So the next time you’re about to toss out that food item in your hand, think what else you can do with it. You’ll feel happy knowing you saved something from landfill and your wallet will thank you for it too!
 United Nations Environment Programme 2021, Food Waste Index 2021, Nairobi
 UN Economic Commissions for Europe n.d., The Challenge | UNECE, unece.org, viewed 3 October 2021, <https://unece.org/challenge>
 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 2019, Apples, The Nutrition Source, viewed 3 October 2021, <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/apples/>