(This story is presented by Metro Vancouver.)
In the course of your life, how much food do you think you’ve thrown away? If that seems like an overwhelming question, then it should be. Chances are, like most Canadians, you’re probably underestimating the answer.
The truth is that food waste is an urgent, global crisis. One-third of all food produced in the world is wasted. And this level of inefficiency in the food system has huge economic, social, and environmental consequences. Not only is it wasting the valuable resources that go into growing, producing, and distributing the food from farm to table, there are also significant costs—not to mention the carbon footprint—associated with disposal.
In fact, food waste costs the Canadian economy up to $100 billion annually. Canada’s 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 and 2.1 million cars on the road. In addition to the pollution generated at every stage of the production and distribution chain, the organic waste in landfills, largely food, makes up four percent of Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions.
According to Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International, almost 60 percent of the food produced in Canada is lost or wasted annually, and 21 percent of Canada’s avoidable food loss and waste can be attributed to consumers.
Urgent progress and a drastic change in how we value food is required in Canada in order to tackle the problem and catch up with the rest of the world in coming up with solutions. But, it can be done. By making small adjustments to our behaviour and, most importantly, using all the food we buy, we can make a big difference.
The Love Food Hate Waste Canada campaign, which launched nationally in July 2018, comes ahead of the federal government’s plan to introduce a Food Policy for Canada. It is spearheaded by the National Zero Waste Council (NZWC), an initiative of Metro Vancouver. NZWC is a leadership collaboration bringing together governments, businesses and non-government organizations to advance waste prevention in Canada.
The Love Food Hate Waste Canada campaign is based on a successful model from the United Kingdom, where avoidable household food waste was cut by 21 percent in its first five years, saving U.K. consumers £13 billion.
After all, being wasteful doesn’t just have a negative impact on the environment; it affects your bank balance, too. In 2017, the NZWC conducted a benchmark study on household food waste in Canada and found that 63 percent of the food we throw away could, at one point, have been eaten. For the average Canadian household that amounts to 140 kilograms of wasted food—at a cost of more than $1,100 per year. Nationally, that amounts to almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year, costing in excess of $17 billion.
All types of food are wasted, but fresh vegetables, fruit, and bread are some of the biggest problem areas. To put this in perspective, every day 2,400,000 potatoes, 1,225,000 apples, and 750,000 loaves of bread are wasted by Canadian households.
Organic bans are a means of diverting food waste from landfills and toward composting facilities. While generating compost is a better use of food waste, this is only part of the solution. It can be easy to assume that when you put something in the compost, it’s not waste. And although it’s better than sending it to landfill, preventing food waste in the first place is a far better way to lessen our impact on the environment.
Of course, there are some items like bones, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags, which can’t be used. The campaign’s focus is on reducing avoidable household food waste, which includes perfectly good food that ends up in the compost or in the bin because we buy too much, cook too much, or don’t store it correctly.
The Love Food Hate Waste Canada campaign aims to inspire and empower people to make their food go further and waste less. Renowned celebrity Chef Bob Blumer is the face of the national campaign and he is asking people to rethink their relationship with food and food waste.
If you, like many Metro Vancouverites, consider yourself a foodie—or just a good global citizen—why not show food the respect it deserves?
For more information, plus tips and advice on how to use all the food you buy, visit the campaign website at www.lovefoodhatewaste.ca. Follow this series to explore some of the simple actions you can take to prevent food waste.