By Dawna Matthews:
Food waste is a global problem that affects all people. Most food waste comes from developed countries such as the United States and those in Europe. Most discarded but edible food originates from homes, restaurants and grocery store retailers.
France recently passed a new law as part of an effort to meet France’s goal to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2025. It bans grocery stores from throwing away or damaging unsold food, and mandates that this food be donated to charities if edible, or as animal feed if not suitable for human consumption. If the stores do not comply, owners could face fines or jail time. This food law is part of a larger environmental bill that is still waiting the French senate’s final approval. This bold and somewhat contentious law intends to reduce waste and poverty throughout the country.
In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that the United States threw out approximately 30 million pounds of food waste a year. This huge number far outweighed the amount of plastic, paper, wood, metal, glass and rubber thrown out. Of the food discarded in the United States, 40 percent of that is edible. Not only is this a shocking amount of food waste that could be appropriated to people who need it, but it also stresses our landfills as it pollutes our environment.
According to the EPA, an estimated 40-50% of food waste comes from consumers, and 50-60% from businesses such as restaurants and stores. This means it is up to each person involved in food production — consumer, restaurant, retailer and producer — to be responsible for the amount of edible food that is tossed away and help fix the problem.
Here are a few ways we can help reduce food waste at home:
- Plan Your Meals for the Week. Add the meals to a calendar and use the menus to make your shopping list. Before leaving the house, go through your food storage to see if you can cross any ingredients off the list and then shop at the store. By doing this, you reduce the amount of food you waste or don’t need.
- Store Food Properly. Find out how to store fruits and vegetables in and out of the refrigerator for maximum freshness. For example, you can store bananas on a cool counter; potatoes in a cool, dark place. Store fruits such as berries as well as most vegetables inside the refrigerator. Proper storage helps reduce the amount of produce thrown away due to spoilage or overripeness.
- Think about Portion and Serving Sizes. Try to cook according to the number of servings and people you are feeding instead of cooking extra and then throwing it away. If you do make extra, eat it for lunch the next day or reuse for another meal.
- Freeze or Preserve What You Can. If seasonal fruits are in abundance, try to freeze or save them for future use instead of allowing them to go bad.
- Compost: If you can, compost any scraps or unused food.
Although France’s new law may target grocery stores, it is making everyone from citizens to restaurant owners take notice. Hopefully other countries such as the United States will also make bold moves such as this in order to greatly reduce our food waste and improve our environment. We all have a responsibility to reduce food waste, and a great way to do this is to start at home. What other ways of reducing food waste can you share?
For more information on the EPA’s report and efforts we can make at home, go to