Food Waste

Picture thanks to Man vs Food

According to the Food Standards Agency,  In the UK, we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. It was all over the news and so it must be true.

That sounds terrible. Stacked up in metre blocks it would form a tower 7 kilometers tall. Each one of us must throw away 100 kg of food which sounds like an awful lot.

I am really interested in this story but the problem is I cannot find out if this is a lot of food or not. I have trawled the internet and have not found any equivalent information on the amount of food we do not throw away. Is 7 million tonnes a big percentage or a small one of the overall amount we eat? Without context it is difficult to tell as the number is meaningless. Without context data is meaningless.

I did manage to find that humans eat approximately 35 tonnes in a lifetime and if, for sake of easiness, we take the average life expectancy as 70 years then everyone must eat about 500 kg a year. That means we throw away somewhere between 17% and 20% of all of our food.

That does seem excessive to me. Now, we can never get to a situation where no food is thrown out. Even approaching a position where consumption and production achieves parity would lead to food shortages in some places. Problems with shelf life and distribution will see to that. A surplus is always required, the alternative is starvation.

What is it though that causes such a large amount to be discarded? That is a hard question as, no doubt, there are many factors at play but here are a few suggestions of my own: Food is too plentiful, the shops are crammed with it and there is so much choice which leads to overstimulation when purchasing; food is too cheap in relative terms and so it is not a huge financial problem to deal with waste; human evolution always leads us to put some away for the future. The fear of starvation lies deep within our subconscious and the temptation to get just that little bit more, just in case, is too great to resist.

20% is too high though. Bear this in mind when you next go to the shops.

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