Why is it so important to not waste food?

UNEP held a contest for World Environment Day on the topic of food waste in line with the theme, Think.Eat.Save – Reduce your foodprint!

I wrote a series of short articles on the subject, re-published, for greater awareness, on Living Green Mag.

My article We Have More Than Enough, And So We Waste was chosen as the top 10, getting me to the second round.


Here are the statistics from UNEP:

The FAO estimates that a third of global food production is lost or wasted; that’s 1.3 billion tonnes each year.

The amount of food wasted by consumers in industrialized countries is almost equal to the net amount produced in the whole of the sub-Saharan Africa.

Overall, on a per-capita basis, much more food is wasted in the industrialized world than in developing countries.

An FAO report estimates that the per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.

Apart from the humanitarian issue, food waste, simply stated, means a waste of natural resources.

From the soil, water, farm inputs, to fossil fuels – all the resources that had gone into the food production also get squandered.


It is estimated that 40% of still edible food in US is discarded, 30% in the UK. And there are similar patterns increasingly in developing nations.

It’s a serious problem; we have all contributed to it, and we’re all guilty.

Why is it important not to waste food?

The food is there for consumption. If I don’t buy it or open it, it will be donated somewhere or disposed of anyhow. Right?

Still, demand drives supply.

The amount of food that is produced and sold partly depends on how much of it is in demand: how much we buy and how much we consume. I say partly because the industry is, to a certain extent, pressuring demand, instead of the other way around.

The food industry is a business that exists for the sole purpose of turning profit. Make no mistake, its aim is not to feed the public, boost our health, or provide a solution for our nutritional needs.

So, how come so much of it ends up wasted?

In a way, stores are afraid that they will be left with stocks of mature produce that the customers see as rotting (instead of perfectly ripe), which is why they usually stock under-ripe items. The label for tomatoes, for example, will say “vine-ripened” but, unless the are locally grown, it is most likely that they were picked green and transported to the store, reddening in the process in artificial surroundings, but still not fully ripe.

In turn, one of the reasons why stores don’t stock less than perfect produce is because consumers won’t buy them, thinking they are not not tasty. And if we don’t buy, the stores don’t make a profit, and it goes to waste.

But unless you’re making a centrepiece for a gala, your produce will end up chopped on a plate, all looking the same.

That cosmetically and aesthetically bruised produce is not only edible, but it’s probably much better for digestion than the shiny products that are laid out in perfect rows in supermarkets. That’s because the fibres in fruit and vegetables, as they ripen, tend to loosen, which is where the richness and intensity of their flavours, aromas – and vitamins and minerals, for that matter – come from. Eating an unripe banana is similar to eating an uncooked potato – it’s not digestible, palatable, nor nutritious.

The decisions we make, both individually and collectively, are affecting everything around us.

Think before you buy. Think before you eat. Be informed. Be aware. Don’t be so egocentric..



World Environment Day is June 5th.

Reduce consumption, reduce food waste, reduce your foodprint: Participate in UNEP/FAO ThinkEatSave World Environment Day campaign and consider how all of our choices are affecting our surroundings and its present and future capacity.

Visit UNEP’s thinkeatsave.org site for some eye-opening, inspiring info that should spur you into action!

7 thoughts on “Why is it so important to not waste food?

  1. I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic. I need to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for putting it out there. Great mission

  2. thanks! this is 1 of 5 in my food waste series
    and check out the links at the bottom of the article there for more info

  3. It is great to make issues like this more known and have the public be more aware.

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