As we’ve all heard by now, food waste has become an enormous issue in developed countries.
For instance, America tosses at least 40% of its food, totaling over $165 billion wasted dollars per year, reports the National Resources Defense Council. Wasted food isn’t just a waste of money, either–food waste is the single largest component of US municipal waste, contributing huge amounts of methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times as powerful as CO2) to the atmosphere. And that doesn’t even include all the water, energy, and fuel that went into producing the wasted food in the first place.
Even more importantly, the NRDC reports that if the US reduced our food waste by just 15%, we could feed over 25 million hungry Americans per year.
One contributor to food waste is grocery stores–specifically, those that intentionally contaminate unsold food to discourage dumpster diving.
One country has recently made important strides in stopping this wasteful habit. France’s National Assembly recently passed a measure requiring that supermarkets donate their unsold food to charities, for animal feed, or for compost. Starting next year, grocery stores 400 square meters or larger will be required to make contracts with charities or farms, or else they’ll face penalties including fines and jail time.
This measure is not without its critics. Some argue that it doesn’t address the roots of food waste, such as overproduction and poor distribution management. Also, only 11% of food waste in France can be attributed to stores, while individual consumers are responsible for a whopping 67% of France’s food waste.
Still, the measure does represent a step in the right direction. It’s important for governments to take action regarding food waste, especially in developed countries where high levels of food waste are contributing significantly to climate change, and where the food can be rerouted to those in need.
But to really reduce food waste, individuals will have to change their habits–we all have to learn how to shop smarter, store food more effectively, and eat our leftovers. For some great tips on reducing food waste in your kitchen, see this NYTimes article.