What happens when people waste food + Astonishing Facts & Advice

So I was watching this new movie called ‘Don’t look up’ the other day with my siblings and gosh, it was pretty bleak! 

When thinking about the next blog I was going to write about I knew I wanted to write something that will really give my readers a real blast of reality. Here at Plate Up, we're all into food (I mean, who isn’t?) but how many of us know where our food is heading after we are done with it? Today I’m going to talk about how food waste impacts the environment.

Food waste | Food wastage facts | How Food waste impacts the environment | Food basket | Food bag

Let’s get started with the facts, shall we? Well, according to the United Nations, 1 billion metric tonnes of food are wasted globally annually [1], accounting for around 30% of what is produced for human use. The environmental effect is significant to say the least. Not only are natural resources being squandered, but vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions are being released into the atmosphere as a result of this wastage. 

When people throw numbers at you, like I just did, it may be difficult to imagine what 1.3 billion tonnes of food even looks like. It’s important we all know. At a time where climate change is being felt right here, at this very moment, I think we all need to make ourselves uncomfortable with the straight, hard facts before we get forced to get uncomfortable. 

Why we waste

Food waste | Food wastage facts | How Food waste impacts the environment | Food bin | Food trash

There are lots of reasons why one might waste food, here are a couple of common reasons and some surprising, bizarre ones! 

  • Expiration dates (note: Just because it’s passed the best before date, does not mean it’s gone off! It just means that it’s not in the best condition, it doesn’t mean it’s bad to eat.)
  • Buying in excess 
  • Having large portions 
  • Not keeping fresh food in the fridge 
  • The food is too ‘ugly’ - Yes this one is real. Two-fifths of fruit and veg crop is wasted because it is 'ugly’ [2]

Food waste ≠ Bad Food 

Food that has been wasted, much like wasted talent, it suggests anything that could’ve been eaten but was not. It’s said that 74kg of food is wasted per person each year, food that could’ve been eaten. This accounts to around 8 meals per household each week. Think about all the money that could’ve been saved! Just to put everything in perspective, if food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd highest contributor after the US and China. You could say the entire effort of combating food wastage has been wasted because the researchers from the UN had said this was one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. [1]

Landfill sites 

Food waste | Food wastage facts | How Food waste impacts the environment | Food landfills | Food landfill sites | Food trash

Everybody eats food, everybody expects it to be taken away. Where does all that food go, if not in our stomachs? Out of sight, out of mind right? Landfills my friends. Less than half of our food waste gets reused, recycled, turns into compost or is used as animal feed. A portion of our food wastage gets dumped into landfills which make up 21% of the site [3]. The food decomposes and enters into the soil and air, which emits harmful greenhouse gases, which may include gases which are worse than CO2, increasing the impact of climate change for the world, and especially for the local community. As a result, some community members may even end up burning the waste, as landfills are running out of space, each year. This gives out even more CO2 emissions. 

Food waste | Food wastage facts | How Food waste impacts the environment | Food landfills | Food landfill sites | Food trash

If rain fails onto the landfill, the waste will dissolve and feed into the rivers or streams causing a large amount of pollution, this could be dangerous for animals, those who drink or bathe there. It could even impact the local drinking water supply. This has been known to cause health and birth defects, headaches or cancer in children and the local community [4].

There’s more than enough food to feed the planet 

Food waste | Food wastage facts | How Food waste impacts the environment | Food landfills | Food bank | Food bank UK

One of the most depressing things that come out of this is the disregard for gratitude. There are people in the world that are suffering from malnutrition and hunger yet we are quick to forget that it exists. The UN says rich countries waste the same amount of food compared to the amount of food that Sub Saharan Africa produces [5]. Bringing the facts back home, it’s said that 8.4 million people go hungry in the UK every year, equivalent to the entire population of London. Meanwhile the UK wastes 3.3 million tonnes of food each year. This means there is more than enough food to go round, the problem lies with distribution and a matter of will. [6]


Food waste | Food wastage facts | How Food waste impacts the environment | Food landfills | Food market stall | Food stalls | Food shop UK | Food stall UK
  • There’s definitely an easy way to help relieve the burdens of not just the helping planet but people too. To prevent food wastage, donate your excess food to your local food bank. That way, it’s a win-win deal. 
  • Keep your food in the fridge! It will last a lot longer.
  • Be mindful of where your food comes from and where it’s heading off too. 
  • Why not try composting your food? 
  • Download apps like Olio where you can give away your excess food to those in your local community. 

If you made it this long, congrats! Sorry it sounded so bleak, but we are all in the middle of the new year, so what better time for us to change our harmful habits?  Here’s another blog about how you can reduce food wastage at home (don’t worry, it’s pretty easy to do it!). 

#foodwaste #food #climatechange #environment

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