The disparity between what is needed and what is wasted is a global problem as tonnes of edible food gets sent to landfill while many people are left starving. To help both the health of the people and that of the Earth our organic food waste needs to be made an important issue.
Vandana Shiva, the Director of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India, shares her views on the importance of waste management in Transforming Food Waste into a Resource. She writes that organic waste is being made in huge amounts and is “… wasting food, wasting people and wasting the Earth.” (2012) The Earth suffers due to pollution, nutritious food is wasted due to rigid standards in uniformity and lives are wasted as people’s basic right to nourishing and adequate food is compromised with many around the world starving. Shiva laments that in India “one million children dying annually for lack of food is a wasted future.” (et al.) Though Shiva writes with more driving passion than concrete data, her strong opinions are certainly not without truth. What she describes as the process of ‘wasted people’ is indeed a big problem associated with organic food waste and alternatives need to be implemented both locally and internationally to help improve this. (et al.)
In the UK, the Waste & Resources Action Programme’s 2011 study on food waste in schools found that over the 40 week school year period 80,382 tonnes of food waste was generated. That is 72 grams per student a day for primary schools and 42 grams a student per day in secondary schools. Vegetables and fruit were found to make up the majority of this waste and sadly, 77% from secondary schools and 78% of this from primary schools were found to have been still nutritious meaning huge amounts of avoidable waste gets sent straight to landfill from schools every year. (WRAP 2011)
When it is estimated around 4 million people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet with fresh fruit and vegetables nor even two meals a day this imbalance between need and excess becomes all too clear. (Gaiani & Segre 2012)
Foodbank is Australia’s leading non-profit organisation in providing second-hand food to community groups and other charities to distribute among the hungry across all of Australia. They report that “1 in 6 Australians report having experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months” (Foodbank 2016) Each month over 644,000 people receive help from food relief charities but still 43,000 more are turned away with empty stomachs due to a lack of resources to meet the great demand.
The total amount of food distributed in NSW is enough for 29,500 meals per day and yet Foodbank reports that it still needs 29% more food to meet demands. Among the most needed are cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables. (et al.)
While the findings of this report are focused on a small selection of Foodbank’s clients, the figures only aid in emphasising the importance of organic waste management and the need to divert still edible food from landfill in Australia and indeed, across the whole world.
If the amount of organic waste disposed in Australia is estimated at 7.5 million tonnes, surely some of the food we throw out could be put to much better uses and help close that gap between supply and demand for the hungry. (Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011) As Shiva passionately writes, we need to turn our organic waste into a resource in order to better “…honour the Earth and it’s people.” (2012)
Foodbank 2016, Foodbank Hunger Report 2016, company report, viewed 7 June 2016, <http://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Foodbank-Hunger-Report-2016.pdf>
Gaiani, S & Segre, A. 2012, Transforming Food into a Resource, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK
Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, National Food Waste Assessment, final report, viewed 7 June 2016, <https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy/publications/national-food-waste-assessment-final-report>
Shiva, V. 2012, ‘Foreword: Wasting Food, Wasting People, Wasting the Earth’, in Gaiani, S & Segre, A. 2012, Transforming Food into a Resource, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, pp. v-vii.
WRAP 2011, Food Waste in Schools, summary report, viewed 7 June 2016, <http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Food%20Waste%20in%20Schools%20Summary%20Report.pdf>