Solving the food waste problem requires efforts equal to reducing climate change and plastic waste, says Martin Rohleder
Every year, a third of food produced globally goes to waste – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, valued at more than US$1 trillion.
In the UK alone, the hospitality and food service sectors waste over 1.1 million tonnes of food each year, 75 per cent (1.3 billion meals) of which is still fit for consumption.
Unfortunately, today’s norm is to waste food rather than value it as a precious resource.
We should be talking about solving the problem in the same way we’ve started a social revolution on climate change and plastic waste. Forty per cent of all packaging produced today (of which 40 per cent is plastic) is used for food and drink so when you throw away food that is still safe to eat, more plastic will be produced to produce food to replace what we threw away.
“Today’s norm is to waste food rather than value it“
An urgent call to action is needed as reducing food waste represents one of the greatest opportunities for individuals, companies and communities to contribute to reversing global warming, and at the same time, build communities and feed people.
Businesses should adhere to the food waste hierarchy to be zero food waste:
- Acknowledge that they can have an impact;
- Reduce operational waste;
- Sell surplus, even at a discounted rate;
- Donate to charities (there are limits as to what and how much they can take);
- Redistribute to local communities;
- Feed animals;
- Anaerobic digestion;
- Compost; and
No surplus food should go to landfill. Businesses must take a holistic view and engage the different players in the hierarchy to be part of the circular solution. Only through collaboration will structural and sustainable solutions be put in place to achieve the goal of zero food waste to landfill.
There is no time left for commercial silo thinking if we are to succeed.
Martin Rohleder is director at OLIO for Businesses, which rescues surplus food and redistributes it to local communities