Scientists decided to figure out for what reason the residents of large cities throw dairy products, fruits and vegetables into the garbage can. We talk about the results of a large-scale study and what environmental engineers are proposing to solve the problem of excess food waste in modern megacities.
Food may be superfluous
It's no secret that in cities there is a serious problem of food waste disposal (besides plastic and paper). People around the world throw out a huge amount of food debris: we constantly see around ourselves overflowing trash cans and compost pits in suburban areas. Activists of charitable organizations are trying to negotiate with cafes and restaurants to give food to the needy, but the initiative encounters many obstacles - from the transportation of food to bureaucratic delays in the design. Moreover, it turned out that despite the global nature of the problem, there is still no clear study and statistics on who, how much, when and what throws it into the trash can.
Employees of the engineering company Tetra Tech in this helped the Council for the Protection of Natural Resources and the Rockefeller Foundation. To the experiment, they connected more than 1,500 people from Denver, New York and Nashville, analyzing the contents of garbage bins of 277 homes and 145 containers owned by commercial and industrial enterprises.
Thanks to the data received, they issued several reports that indicated where and how much food waste appeared in cities and how to use them for the benefit of society.
Three levels of garbage
For the study, environmental engineers Tetra Tech divided all food from garbage cans into three categories: edible waste, semi-edible waste (peel and bits) and inedible (bones, eggshell, shell of mollusks). Then they calculated the finds from the garbage cans and added to this quantity what was stated in the kitchen diaries (reports on food ejected) of the citizens to understand how much garbage is formed depending on the urban environment.
It turned out that most of the food goes to junk in Denver and New York. Not surprisingly, the authorities in New York decided in 2014 to introduce a program of “compost islands” to solve the problem of excess food waste. Thus, almost 30% of 14 million tons of garbage is sent to landfills outside the city limits for the production of useful organic fertilizer.
In Nashville, food waste coming from residential areas and restaurants was the same in quantity. Denver residents threw the largest amount of edible waste (first category) - about 3.5 kg per house per week, New Yorkers - 2.5 kg of food per week, and the least residents of Nashville - 2 kilograms. Among all three cities, coffee and grains were the most common type of waste in the tank, followed by banana peel and chicken bones. Apples, bread, oranges and potatoes are also included in the top list, along with written off dairy products.
Why do people throw food away
In their reports, the townspeople indicated for what reason they throw out certain products. Thus, 44% of respondents wrote that they discarded inedible (third category) product category, 20% sent spoiled or moldy food to the trash can, and only 11 percent said they did not want to leave leftover food in the refrigerator. Only 4 percent of Americans indicated that they were throwing food away only because it passed the expiration date shown on the package.
The reports gave the researchers the necessary information about the attitude of the inhabitants of cities to food. So, the majority of respondents prefer to eat “ideal” fruits and vegetables - without spots and dents. More than half of the respondents said that they always or almost always cut out the spoiled part of the fruit or vegetable and eat the rest of the flesh. Only a few wrote that they are not morally ready to throw food away. 58 percent said they feel less guilty about throwing food away because they know that it will be processed into compost.
However, judging by what the city residents told the researchers, most of the discarded products (53%) will not be processed into compost, but will go straight to the trash.
Moreover, Tetra Tech scientists were able to identify a strange pattern: the more respondents participated in the compost waste recycling program, the more waste appeared in the city. For comparison, in cities where families immediately threw food into a trash can (Denver, Nashville), the total number of waste was much less. In this regard, the researchers concluded that for people in priority should be a reduction in the total amount of food waste, rather than recycling them into compost.
Waste for good
Excess food can and should be used to benefit those in need. "Outrageously large amounts of food are dumped into sewers in modern cities, and at the same time almost as many people are starving," said Dana Ganders, senior researcher at the Council for the Protection of Natural Resources.
For example, according to a 2016 US Department of Agriculture report, more than 13 percent of Tennessee residents experience permanent food shortages. In New York State, this figure is close to 12 percent, and in Colorado, more than 10 percent of residents are struggling daily for access to food resources. How do city authorities propose to solve the problem of food shortages? Increasing the amount of produced resources. However, according to the report of the Council for the Protection of Natural Resources, such measures only oppress nature and rural areas.
For owners of restaurants and cafes, participation in the program of assistance to those in need can become quite expensive - they will have to pay the cost of transporting food at their own expense. In such conditions it is easier to throw food in the trash. However, if the city authorities take on this problem, the costs will be less significant for the budget.
Environmental engineers consider their research an idea for a city startup: “More likely, more and more data on this topic will appear every year, and then it will be easier for authorities to navigate the possibilities of rational use of food waste.” For example, they propose to organize a site for collecting food and raise awareness of this problem among citizens.
New "trash management"
Cities can also completely change the "garbage management." For example, in New York, a group of young enthusiastic architects, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation’s architecture center, outlined a series of design solutions that view food waste as a planning problem and solve it with well-thought-out layout and inventive interiors that help ease the burden of cities like the one that his mayor Bill De Blasio set before New York. He stated that the city should go to zero waste by 2030. - transition to complete disposal of waste by 2030.
Others speak of other ways to solve this problem. “Make recycling and composting easier,” wrote one of the panelists on this topic on the net. “Like many of the New Yorkers, I live in a small place and often notice mice and cockroaches in me. This means that the garbage is stored in a certain place. Since we have to divide the garbage container into a department for recycling waste paper and a department for other waste, there is no room for full separation of garbage into four containers. When we lived in San Francisco and threw all recyclable garbage into a single container, we made compost much more often. ”
“Design thinking is something that people should demand from cities, architects, and higher ones,” said Rockjeller’s Executive Director of the Rockefeller Architecture Center at a meeting on waste reduction plans. In his opinion, it is the collection, processing and work on accurate data will enhance the focus and influence of citizens on the government.
Money down the drain
As practice shows, no one likes to throw away food. Why, then, according to world statistics, every year 40% of all food produced is dumped at landfills? Researchers from the United States tried to find the answer to the question.
To begin with, they found out that the average American family of four people each year spends one and a half thousand dollars on food, which ends up in a trash can. To make it clearer, it is about 90 thousand rubles! I do not know how much money a family of four throws out in Russia, but I hope less.
American buyers were once asked what their reaction would be if they accidentally smashed the packaging of eggs they bought when they left the supermarket. Everyone answered that it would upset them very much. Immediately they were asked a second question: how will you feel when you find that the eggs that have been standing in your refrigerator for six weeks have deteriorated? Most respondents answered that they did not see anything wrong with that - they were spoiled because they were spoiled.
Is it the fault of the refrigerators?
The reason for this behavior, researchers see that consumers want to have a choice. So that at any moment we have at hand a variety of products, while not the fact that we will eat them.
Another reason is directly related to refrigerators. Since the 1970s, their volume has increased by 15%. We began to buy more simply because there was more space in the refrigerators. According to researchers, a person does not like the emptiness in the refrigerator (while he loves free space in the design).
Void on a plate, we also do not like. Since the 1960s, the size of the plate has grown by 36%, and when a person has a large plate, he automatically puts more food into it than he can eat - he doesn’t care if he eats everything or throws off the leftovers.
According to Riccardo Valentini, a professor at the University of Tusia, climate change will increase world food prices ranging from 3 to 84% by 2050, which poses a serious threat to food production and safety. Today, more than 800 million people suffer from malnutrition throughout the world and about 36 million are dying of hunger.
Experiments on students
I'll tell you another real story. The leadership of the student cafeteria at the University of California at Santa Barbara was seriously concerned about the amount of food that students left behind during lunch. The canteen workers found on the trays almost intact glasses of soda, juice, milk and water and products that were not even touched. Five thousand pounds (2300 kg or 350 turkeys) of food were sent to the trash every day!
We had to do something with this, and they came up with an amazingly simple solution: they removed the trays from the dining room. Students could still take as much food as they wanted, but without the trays. The amount of food waste decreased exactly by half, and the students, as before, left fed. The thing is that now they more carefully approached the choice of food, and did not collect everything according to the principle “just in case, they suddenly want it.”
The conclusion suggests itself: you can solve the problem of food waste. Choose a refrigerator for your real grocery basket, not a huge one for your neighbors to envy. Buy products that you can eat and not sweep the shelves of supermarkets just because of a good discount. Going to a restaurant where the buffet, do not grab the largest plate and do not put everything in it in a row - still do not eat. Take a small and better go for the additive. Do you have any idea how to reduce the amount of food waste at home and in public places? Well, in general, share your observations on this subject, it is interesting.
Finally, seven facts about food waste that you might not know:
1. Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown into the world. worth roughly one trillion US dollars.
2. Food waste generates 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, accelerating global climate change. If all food that was thrown away were a country, it would be ranked third in the ranking of countries with the highest carbon footprint after the United States and China.
3. Only one fourth of the discarded food could feed 795 million undernourished people all over the world.
4. Food waste in rich countries (222 million tons) is equivalent to all food produced in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
5. European or North American consumers throw out almost 100 kg of food each year. - more than its weight (70 kg).
6. European or North American consumer throws out 15 times more food, than typical African consumers.
7. The cause of food waste in Africa is the lack of technology and infrastructure. In developed countries, food is thrown away because they cannot eat everything.
Hello! I am Nastya, a journalist and ecobloger. Improving my life through ecology and getting you started. I tell about an eco-friendly life easily, interestingly, with brains and without fanaticism.
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Wasting is one of the major problems of mankind
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), developed countries emit up to 40% of the total food produced.
Overproduction of products and their easy accessibility in developed countries - the main cause of this problem. People are becoming more wasteful.
Every year, residents of developed countries emit products worth up to $ 400 billion. Such statistics lead researchers at Harvard University. At the same time, most third world countries still suffer from food shortages. About 800 million people suffer from malnutrition, and this is every fifth inhabitant of the planet.
Inefficient use of food is a very serious problem. Every year in developed countries, 222 million tons of food is sent to the garbage - almost as much as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa.
This is not only unacceptable from a moral point of view, but simply stupid.
- Food waste costs countries billions of dollars.
- They are the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Greenhouse gases affect climate change, which causes irreparable harm to the environment.
In principle, the Dutch are very economical people. Most Dutch families are used to planning their budget; they clearly know what their salaries will be spent on.
But the Dutch are very fond of food. This is, in principle, one of the few things that they do not save. In this country, a sufficiently large number of cafes and restaurants for every taste and budget. In the evening, many families go to dinner in such places.
In rural areas, they eat mostly at home, but a lot and satisfying. But the leftover food from dinner is always thrown into the trash. The Dutch are not used to leaving food for tomorrow. And this is only consumer waste, not counting unrealized products that farmers emit.
This habit leads to the fact that the amount of food waste is 40-50 kg of food per person per year. That, as in other countries mentioned in this article, costs the state billions of euros.
In Poland, 9 million tons of food waste is generated annually. A quarter of the population surveyed admitted that they often throw food away. According to experts of the Polish Federation of Food Banks, most often perishable products such as:
- Bread - 58%,
- Potatoes and sausages - 37% each
- Vegetables - 19%,
- Fruits - 18%.
To the question “Why do people throw food away?”, The following answers from the respondents were the most popular:
- Because the expiration date has expired - 39%,
- Prepared a lot of dishes - 34%,
- Purchased too many products - 22%.
Outside the EU, the most wasteful are the United States of America.
As stated in the WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Program) report, every year in the United States 60 million tons of food worth about $ 162 billion becomes food waste. The average American throws 10 times more food than a resident of South Asia, and 50 times more than a resident of the USA in the 1970s.
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The value of reducing the amount of food waste
The experts concluded that reducing food losses of at least 15% would allow to feed 25 million people annually.
World hunger and the environmental situation are the two largest and most important problems of all mankind. Reducing the amount of food waste is a solution to both problems.
Эффективные стратегии по борьбе с расточительством в развитых странах включают в себя:
- Улучшение коммуникации между производителями и торговцами, чтобы избежать перепроизводства.
- Совершенствование системы маркировки продуктов.
- Информирование производителей и потребителей об экономических и экологических последствиях от образования пищевых отходов, и о способах их уменьшения.