Waste is such a waste
Cool Tips for a Hot Planet
I admit it. I’ve disposed of my share of mould-growing science projects pulled from the back of the fridge. I’ve over-purchased food on sale that ends up aging on the shelf well past its best-before date. And by the sounds of it, I’m not alone.
In Canada almost 60 per cent of the food we produce doesn’t make it from farm or factory to our forks. Canadian food redistribution network Second Harvest released a ground-breaking report in 2019 that shows Canadians toss more than $10 billion worth of food each year. That’s an average cost of $1,766 per household. Ouch. If you include waste from institutions, retailers and restaurants, the bill is closer to $50 billion.
The environmental costs are also enormous. A lot of that uneaten food goes to landfills where it breaks down and releases methane, a much more potent global heating gas than carbon dioxide. Worldwide, food waste accounts for up to 10 per cent of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the U.N.’s Environment Program.
The good news is that reducing food waste is one of the top 10 actions we can take to curb global heating, analysis by Project Drawdown shows.
Businesses and governments have put the problem on their radar in recent years.
• Loblaws and its affiliates have teamed up with the app Flashfood to help customers easily find and order discounted food for pickup at participating grocers. Loblaws in Lindsay is on that list.
• The parent company of Sobeys, IGA, Foodland and FreshCo has partnered with Second Harvest to redistribute perfectly good food that is less likely to sell. Some of the food collected through the Second Harvest platform makes its way to Kawartha Lakes Food Source, a distribution centre that supplies groceries to food banks and other local organizations. Food Source also receives excess food from Giant Tiger. Heather Kirby, executive director, says when food donations are within the best before date, with intact packaging, they work well. If not, the burden and cost of disposal is just offloaded to organizations like hers.
• In June, Kawartha Lakes council approved curbside compost collection, to be rolled out first in Lindsay, Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls and Omemee in 2025. With luck it will expand to the rest of the city, extending the life of landfills while reducing emissions. Locally, food and organic waste make up about 30 per cent of our garbage.
• The federal government’s Our Food Future program helps communities increase food access while reducing waste. Partly through that program, Guelph and Wellington County last year received international recognition for a pilot project that addresses food waste from businesses and institutions. The program reduced collection costs, redirected edible food from landfills and reduced GHG emissions.
We can all pitch in by pitching out less and saving money in the process. How?
1. Plan meals for the week.
2. Create a grocery list for those meals after first taking stock of what’s already on hand.
3. Buy only what you need.
4. Use leftovers first, and look at freezing what you can’t use up.
5. If you must toss fruits and veggies, compost them. To discourage pests, the David Suzuki Foundation recommends not composting oils, meats and breads.