Whether you’re a consumer tossing a bruised banana or a grocery giant filling a dumpster with perfectly edible food that’s reached its vague best-before date, Canadians waste a staggering amount of food each year.
A 2014 report (below) pegged the dollar value at $31 billion a year. Provision Coalition, which calls itself the “leading voice” on sustainability for Canada’s food and beverage industries says close to half of all food produced (up to 40 per cent) finds its way into landfills, instead of hungry mouths.
Statistics Canada says the costs are far-reaching and eclipse the price tag at the grocery store. “Food waste also represents a waste of other resources, as considerable water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions are involved in producing, transporting, and preparing food.”
At least one country is taking steps to stop the madness.
According to a report in The Guardian, France has become the first country to make it illegal for supermarkets to throw out unsold food. The new law, which passed unanimously, requires grocers to instead donate it to charities and food banks.
In Canada, grocery behemoths like Loblaw, Metro and Sobeys all tout their efforts to cut back on waste, but nothing is mandated by law and rising food prices have many food banks unable to meet demands.
When it comes to waste, consumers are also culpable.
Provision Coalition found that the average household wastes $1,500 of food a year.
“We waste food because we don’t use it and it gets funky in the fridge, or we forget that we have something in the fridge, or we don’t use our leftovers, or we throw something out because it reaches the best-before date,” home economist Getty Stewart told the Canadian Press.
Here are some consumer tips from the David Suzuki Foundation on how to prevent food waste at home:
- Take produce out of plastic bags. Air-tight wrappings suffocate fresh produce and speed up the decay process.
- Don’t wash produce until you’re ready to eat it. Moisture encourages decomposition and mould growth.
- Don’t rip off fruit stems. Once living cells are broken, microorganisms start to grow. Keep produce whole as long as possible.
- Eat the most perishable items first – raspberries last a few days; potatoes can hang around for about a month.
- Seep up the ripening process by putting the item (a peach, for example) in a paper bag with a banana.