Waste Not Want Not
A groundbreaking report, published by Tesco and WWF, sheds light on the historically under researched world of farm-level food waste in the UK. The fight against food waste plays out in all sorts of ways around the world. And as our eyes turn to Egypt, COP27 – aka the first “food COP” – just might change the game.
You may have noticed the words “wonky veg” being bandied about quite a bit in the news these days. With the impact of inflation and the cost of living crisis, sales of lower-priced, irregularly-shaped vegetables went up by 38% in September. “Households are turning to ‘wonky’ vegetables and frozen food in an attempt to keep costs down as grocery prices soared by a record 13.9%,” reported The Guardian, based on September stats.
Tesco has moved its food waste targets forward, even tying executive bonuses to hitting them. The company has also partnered with environmental group WWF on a recently published Hidden Waste report, that delves into the wild and under-researched world of farm-level food waste.
The report is pretty major. Some staggering numbers include: 25% of UK food waste occurs on farms, and 2.9 million tonnes of that wasted food is edible. Translation? That’s the equivalent of 6.9 billion meals. Amongst the proposed actions, the report calls for mandatory reporting of on-farm food waste, and sets 2030 as the target to cut that waste by half.
A little more data could make a big difference in the effort to combat food waste.
So, what does fighting food waste look like in places further afield? It’s taking shape in forms both little and large.
Over 1,400 supermarkets in the U.S. and Canada have signed up with Flashfood, an app that enables retailers to quickly sell discounted food nearing its expiration date. “Branded fridges sit in the front of grocery stores with signs encouraging people to help fight food waste,” reported The New York Times.
Curbing food waste while dining out is even a requirement in some countries. To take away (or not) isn’t a question in Spain or France, where it’s mandatory to offer to-go bags for the leftovers on diners’ plates. “Much of Europe is pretty comfortable with handing over one’s leftovers,” noted The Financial Times.
After a citizens’ assembly meeting, residents in one French town decided to collect stale bread and convert it into energy and fertiliser.
Just goes to show: where there is a collective – and political – will, there is a way.
GOOD COP, FOOD COP
The UN will host the first-ever Food and Agriculture Pavilion at the upcoming Climate Change Conference, aka COP27, in Egypt. “The Pavilion will convene local, national, and global actors including farmers and youth to seek solutions for transforming agrifood systems,” said Qu Dongyu, Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
That this is being called the first “food COP” is welcome news to policymakers and farmers alike. “[Food] has been the missing piece in climate negotiations for far too long,” said Dr Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
“I have no doubt that this will be the COP of sustainable agriculture, the COP of action,” said Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
May we live in hope.