The reduction of food waste has emerged, in recent years, as an important societal issue. There is debate, in some quarters, about whether food waste reduction is in fact a waste management problem. It is. Reduction is the often overlooked first R of the 3 Rs and tackling food waste presents a tangible and actionable opportunity. Importantly, it is the confluence of food waste’s monetary (e.g. wasting money), environmental (e.g. greenhouse gas generation) and social (e.g. food insecurity) impacts that broadens the scope of tacking this problem, beyond just waste management. This provides us with opportunities to reduce a waste management problem, which is really focussed on environmental impact, and use this as a platform to address some other issues as well.
Compelling messages and tools can be developed to help both households and businesses understand the extent of this issue, how it impacts them, how it impacts others and importantly what they can do about it. Key to these messages are that food waste, at the household level, results in the squandering of at least $500/year that could otherwise be put to a different use. That doesn’t include unnecessary collection, disposal or diversion costs. A further message is that directing food waste to a green bin, while better than disposal, does not reduce the embedded greenhouse gas generation of its agricultural production, transportation and preparation in the home (i.e. about 75% of the greenhouse gas impact). The final message could be that if we are able to reduce the amount of food that becomes waste we are left with some additional money, a portion of which could be donated to help the food insecure.
In the context of waste management planning, the issue of food waste can be leveraged to try and make significant progress to reduce a portion of the 25-35% of our household disposal stream that consists of food waste and the 40-60% of our green bin stream that consists of avoidable food waste. As the province moves closer to enacting a food and organic waste disposal ban this food waste reduction will continue to grow in importance and will require action.
Reducing food waste can help us to meet some key waste management goals, that is reducing the amount of waste that is disposed and reducing the climate change impact of waste management. The collateral bonus, and possibly key motivator to this call to action, is that it leaves households to retain more of their money, which can be used for their own purposes and/or to help others.