The food waste problem has been in existence ever since technology allows us to produce more food than we actually need; and like many other environmental issues, it can’t be solved until every one of us gets involved.
However, while the bad news is that we have created a real problem, the good news is it’s totally solvable and preventable with minimal efforts from the end consumers.
Before looking into the solutions to reduce food waste, I believe it’s better to first look at the facts.
Food Waste Facts
Take the U.S for example, a country known for its supreme development in the economy.
Regarding solid waste, according to learner.org, each person in the U.S produces approximately 4.6 pounds of garbage per day, meaning 230 million tons of “trash” produced every year.
Meanwhile, in their latest discovery, Unenvironment shares a stunning report regarding food waste: The U.S alone takes up nearly ⅓ of the world’s food waste, specifically 66.5 million tons.
Run the numbers and you’ll see food waste alone takes up to 29% the amount of trash each year.
And that’s just the numbers in the U.S.
In Japan, nearly 20 million tons of food is thrown away each year, 9 million of which is still usable and yet to pass its expiration date!
In the world, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food are being discarded each year, turning into food waste, also according to the site.
This amount of food waste takes up ⅓ the amount of trash produced each year, and it shouldn’t be.
Organizations are struggling to handle such an enormous amount of waste, but it is still impossible to recycle everything as it depends much on the nature of each kind of trash itself.
9 Easy Food Waste Solutions
These are 9 surprisingly effective ways to reduce food waste, and they’re just good habits that anyone can easily take up.
1. Respect Your Food: Shop Efficiently
Just don’t overbuy. Seriously. My mom always bought tons of cabbages or any veggies on sale at the market near our house. “Cabbage week is the healthiest thing in your life sweetie,” she said, and I ended up having take-outs because I couldn’t handle that much cabbage.
Everything was up to the point where she kept buying stuff and throwing them away in the end because there was too much to eat.
Buy enough to make sure they all get digested in your stomach. It both helps reducing food waste and numbers at the bottom of the grocery bills.
2. Be Smart About Food Storage
Here’s a true fact about foods that, many people, surprisingly, do not know: Foods can be contaminated if not stored properly.
If you’ve been applying the freezing method your entire life, there are also other tips that you might find helpful:
- Not everything freezes and then tastes well when reheated, especially those with high water content. It can freeze alright, but once the ice crystals are formed, unfreezing them results in limpy greens that are no longer crispy to the bite.
- If what you’re storing is raw meat, be sure to take a clean paper towel and slightly wipe all over the surface to absorb all moisture. Molds form in moist surfaces more quickly than usual.
- For meals that are supposed to be eaten during the day and there’s no room in the fridge, at least cover it with plastic food wrap. Foods left out in the open air is the best home for disease-causing pathogens!
3. Don’t Be Picky!
“This apple tastes supreme, but the core with 99% edible flesh and 2 inedible seeds seems repelling, so I’m throwing away the core.”
“These strawberries’ sweetness is divine, but I’m going to cut out and discard the top with half of it being the edible flesh and the other being the stem.”
If somehow you possess one of these thoughts, you are contributing to the production of food waste more than you already are.
Pick out the seeds and eat the whole apple. There are like 2 or 3 of them. Pick the stems out with your hands.
Remember to utilize everything, even your food. Isn’t this just a thing we all should do?
4. Date Your Food
“How long has this thing been in here? Can I still eat it?”
Stop asking yourself these kinds of questions and start putting labels with dates of storage on them.
You won’t have to throw away food just because you’re not sure if it’s edible or not anymore.
5. Reuse To Reduce: Transform scraps to vegetable broth
Food scraps might look unappetizing and unsuitable to be served on plates, but they don’t necessarily belong to the trash bin.
Fill the pot of vegetable or meat scraps with plain water, heat it on low for 2-3 hours and you’ll have a delicious (and nutritious!) broth for risotto, soups or even stews.
6. Don’t Throw Your Food Away If It’s Not Expired Yet
Although this seems quite obvious, lots of people still throw their foods away, especially when it’s close to their expiration dates.
So, should you throw it away when it’s past the expiration date? It depends.
“Best if Used By, Best By, Best Before” are terms that indicate a product is best to be used before that date, not the expiration date.
The product is still usable within several days after this date.
“Use By”, meanwhile, can be a little tricky to denote. While it means “throw-away” date in the EU, it conveys “still usable but tastes worse after [date]” to consumers in the U.S.
Either way, for the sake of your health, throw the product away when it’s past “Use By” date.
“Expires on” is the “deadline” for your food: after this date, the product is no longer usable.
So, by knowing your terms, you just saved quite some money and the planet.
7. Transform Leftovers To Casseroles
Leftovers could sometimes look quite… unappealing. I mean, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for you and you’re feeling good. You deserve new food, not a boring tray of leftovers.
Make yourself a new tray of casserole by adding more: bundles of veggies, put some mashed potatoes on top and sprinkle some cheese on top to bake until golden brown.
If it’s veggies, add in strips of baked chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper and eat as is, or with cooked rice.
Isn’t that the way the legendary pizzas were invented in the first place? The key to reducing food waste comes down to just the matter of creativity.
8. Dispose of Smartly: Install A Garbage Disposal
In some countries, like Japan for example, trash is categorized and treated differently.
Therefore, food waste gets to be chopped up into small pieces in factories and either decomposed into plant food, or buried in landfills to produce methane gas, a source of fuel.
However, in many other countries, organic waste is oftentimes dumbed directly down the drain.
This could easily clog the drain and cause great damages to the drainage system, which are not designed to deal with big chunks of solid food waste.
With a garbage disposal machine right under your sink, food waste can be pulverized and essentially liquefied, making it easier for the system to deliver it to the right place.
There are currently loads of garbage disposals on the market, with different brands featuring their unique functions. It’s not easy to choose what you need amongst that big collection.
I highly recommend you check out this article to have the most accurate reviews regarding each kind. Super clear and straight to the point.
9. Raise Earthworms
Composting is the most effective method of treating food waste, and unlike general assumption, it can happen right inside your house.
This may sound a bit creepy, raising a bunch of earthworms in a box somewhere near your kitchen, where you cook.
But considering that raising these little compost makers turns out to be quite helpful in turning your life eco-friendly, isn’t it worth the effort?
Simply go to a fish store, get a box of them, put some soil in it and start throwing in food scraps. The smaller the pieces, the quicker these worms work their magic.
Oh and don’t feed them meat (any kinds of meat), bones, fish, dairy products and oily foods as these will produce odor that attracts flies.
After just a few days, you’ll have plenty of rich soil to grow onions, potatoes or any house plants for your kitchen!