Food waste is not a new topic. Scientists have been looking into it for years and chances are you have seen food waste talked about on the news or in a documentary, yet the issue remains prevalent. The University of Edinburgh conducted a study in February 2017 that found that global food waste is still very much a problem, with over a fifth of food going to waste. Not all of the food being wasted is being left to spoil, however. Excess food consumption is now part of the issue.

Almost 20 percent of the world’s food is going to waste. The food that is left to spoil, or that is thrown out, only makes up about nine percent of the world’s food waste. The other 10 percent is due to excess consumption. To come up with those figures, the researchers looked at 10 key stages of the global food system, which includes the growing, harvesting and consumption of crops. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization collected most of the data for the study and found that more food was being lost than they originally thought. Almost half of all harvested crops, 2.1 billion tons of food, is lost through excess eating, discarding or problems with the production process. Livestock production has the most inefficiencies with losses at 78 percent. It doesn’t help that it takes 1.08 billion tons of crops to produce 240 million tons of animal products including dairy and meat. When the demand for products such as meat and dairy increase, the production efficiency goes down even more. Having to meet this increased demand would lead to some serious environmental impacts as it would increase greenhouse gasses and deplete water supplies. Pushing an already taxed system further is not a sustainable way to produce the world’s food.

The team of researchers who compiled this data is now urging people to eat fewer animal products and to be aware of their personal food waste, whether it be from overeating or throwing food away. Said Dr. Peter Alexander, who led the study, “Reducing losses from the global food system would improve food security and help prevent environmental harm. Until now, it was not known how over-eating impacts the system.” Not only is it harmful to health, we found that over-eating is bad for the environment and impairs food security.”

There are plenty of ways to make changes to your personal food waste. Not overeating is a goal everyone can get behind. Eating your recommended calories and no more will keep you and the planet healthy. Not only is junk food normally where people are overeating, but it also takes more energy to produce these foods than naturally occurring foods. Buying local produce and meat is another easy way to do your part. There is even a farmer’s market on campus at the beginning of fall each year. Before you reach for another bag of cookies, make sure you aren’t just throwing food away by doing so. Be aware of what you eat and how it made its way to you. The planet will thank you.

 

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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