I am not very good at remembering statistics. We have so many numbers to remember as it is. That the estimated annual food waste in the UK, according to WRAP (2016) is 10 million tonnes (60% of which is avoidable) and that this quantity is equivalent to £17 billion and 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions gets lost on me: I always have to check the details and even then I cannot grasp these numbers, all I understand is the enormity of them.
And of course, statistics change over time and depend on whether you are measuring on a local, national or global scale, so these factors need to be clearly stated. (My research has been predominantly UK-focused, and the limitations of this are apparent now I’m on the other side of the world!) Two different sources might also give different statistics: food waste is a complex problem after all and the definition of food waste and the ability to measure food waste lend in part to the problem.
We want to be able to measure food wasted as well as its economic, social and environmental impacts and the impacts our positive actions have on dealing with the problem.
The statistics I prefer are the ones that are more visual and therefore (to me at least) easier to get your head round. Yes, the numbers are big, but they are manageable. For example:
Globally, enough food is produced to feed the 1.5 times the population.
But according to the FAO by 2050, based on predicted population, consumption and economic growth, food production needs to increase by 60%-70%. Therefore we not only need to improve our food systems so that current production meets population needs but also establish a food system that can feed more people.
Other statistics that I always find easy to remember are:
- The catering industry throws away the equivalent of 1 in 6 plates of food. Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant with five friends. You all have your favourite dish in front of you. Then the waiter comes over, picks up your plate of food and chucks it in the bin.
- An average UK family could save £60 a month on food through more efficient meal planning, education on how to use leftovers and more general awareness on the impacts of food waste.
These are just a few examples. Every day there is something on the news about food waste. Who is contributing to the problem. What somebody is doing to address the problem. Ideas range from simple to radical. Blame is apportioned more ominously on some parties (arguably with good reason) but what we truly need to understand is that it is the system that is at fault and we – individual consumers, retailers, manufacturers, farmers, etc – are all a part of the system.
My current series of blog posts is going to address different areas of this system that both produces food waste and has the means to make positive reductions and preventions of food waste. This link is for a 59 second video that I produced for my Masters degree which illustrates where food is wasted, the impacts of food waste, and the positive changes that are taking place. It is by no means exhaustive but I will expand on this as the weeks progress.