[First posted on Feb 2017, see updates below]
It is really sad to see lot of developing world suffer from hunger and poverty while tremendous amount of food gets wasted in developed world! Lets us briefly look at the key facts for USA, from savethefood.com, you might have seen the ads recently on tv:
- 40% of the food gets wasted
- Each of the Americans throw away 300 lbs of food every year
- 90% of the Americans throw away food too soon
- Food is the #1 thing in American landfills and contributes more to climate pollution than all of the cars in Georgia
Savethefood.com also presents the wastage in terms of water that gets used in producing the food. And that is a great way to get a sense & scale of the waste. We all know about water scarcity so it is easy to see why wastage of food is beyond the food wastage, it impacts the precious natural resources along with the other resources, like time, labor & energy etc.
Now let us see some of those numbers, water wasted – measured in shower minutes:
- 1 lb of bananas = 42 min
- 1 lb of rice = 60 min
- 1 lb of chicken = 104 min
- 1 lb of beef = 370 min
These numbers are really unbelievable and scary! Clearly the population needs awareness and education, as they are not just losing their hard earned dollars but also have a negative global impact.
The stat that 90% of households throw away food too soon is a great example of how much education is needed. Btw, the dates on the packaging are there to guarantee the quality of the food..that doesn’t mean it becomes inedible. We have to educate the masses and the ad campaign is a good start.
Now, imagine a back of the envelope idea to solve this particular problem. I believe, people buy food and store them and forget about some of those foods as days go on. So, if we alert the people about the food that is about to reach its best-buy etc date, they will be able to plan and consume accordingly. We can create an app to track the items. In the grocery store when we buy, the receipt prints a QR code which you will scan with the app and app retrieves (from app’s service url) all the items that you bought with best-buy dates! This needs for the manufacturers to update the bar-codes to contain the date information and the grocery check out software to integrate with app’s service. Once the items are in your app, the app will alert consumers (with some form of consumer preferred setting) and consumers will never miss the items! Yes, I know, it will need some changes along the supply chain and processes but technically quite easy to implement. Some brave entrepreneur can take this on.
And the waste happens not just in households but in lots of other places (along the food supply chain). For example: Grocery chains buy only good looking fruits & vegetables and the growers throw away the rest! Restaurants throw away the unsold food at the end of the day! People have come up with creative ways to solve these challenges, for example: Ingloriuous F&V in Europe is an example to sell the not-so perfect looking fruits & veggies, which was very successful and everybody wins. Regarding the restaurant food waste, I do know a couple charities in various locales, that pick up the unsold food and distribute to the hungry. These are great solutions but still not quite widely adopted, not quite sure why? Perhaps a national organization has to evolve to deliver on these ideas, similar to what Goodwill does for clothes.
I hope…one day we will have sensors that can tell us whether the food is edible or not and alert you before it goes waste! 🙂
Update (Jan 10, 2020)- We found, from the recent Pulse campaign, this #ProWoSo is a popular one!
Update (Sep 20, 2022)- Latest EU food waste estimates put it at 153Million Tons, per year! Even worse to note that is more than what EU imports!? 🙁
[Image Credit: Thanks to Viscious-Speed via Pixabay]