SUN 21 - 4 - 2019
Date: Jul 11, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Food waste: The world’s dirty secret
Dima El Hassan

Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted around the world. That’s an astonishing one-third of all food produced, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and is enough to feed 815 million people, 10 percent of the world’s population. This food waste or food loss constitutes all the fresh food that is discarded or lost uneaten, rather than rotten food.The causes behind food waste or loss are numerous and occur throughout the different stages of from food production, to processing, retail and consumption.

In addition to the moral and ethical implications, food waste has a huge impact on climate change, given that we are already exhausting our planet’s resources.

Decomposing food releases methane gas, and discarded food generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Economically speaking, food waste amounts to almost $680 billion in developed countries and $310 billion in developing countries. A study showed that in 2017, Australia wasted the largest amount of food per capita – 361 kilograms of food per person per year. The United States came second with 287 kilograms per person, followed by Sweden at around 200 kilograms.

Despite this grave assessment, many countries have begun to take serious measures to reduce food waste. In South Korea, for example, people pay for the food they throw away within a well-monitored system. They have to separate their food waste from other waste or risk facing a fine. After waste is picked up from homes, shops and restaurants, trucks transfer it to recycling facilities where it is transformed into animal feed or use for fuel.

This successful practice has enabled Seoul to save 300 tons of food daily over the last four years.

Another positive example is France, which, in 2016, became the first country in the world to criminalize food waste. A new law has forced stores to donate unsold food provided it is within its expiry date. Now, France is among the countries with least food waste.

The success in this area has inspired other similar initiatives by the French government, which is considering a plan to ban stores from throwing away unsold clothing. A new law on clothing is expected by 2019. Forcing stores to donate clothing helps people in need, reduces the environmental impact and prevents the waste of 700,000 tons of clothing France currently throws away on a yearly basis – less than a quarter of which is recycled.

In Lebanon, the Lebanese Food Bank organization is one positive initiative that “strives towards the eradication of hunger throughout Lebanon through a range of food, development/training and awareness programs.”

It provides food on a daily basis to families and individuals in need, mainly through the collection of surplus food from partner restaurants, hotels, caterers, supermarkets and fruit and vegetables, food exporters/importers.

Despite the need of government support to grow the initiative to a national level, it still proves developing countries can take positive steps to prevent food. We need to take a strong stand against waste, and food waste in specific.

Not least because it is unethical given the challenges with hunger and the environment around the world. It is socially and ethically unacceptable to think that 30 percent of all food is wasted, when one in nine people are underfed.

It all starts from within. Every one of us needs to be aware of food waste and in no doubt about the catastrophic impact it has. No country can realistically hope to reduce waste and save the planet if individuals are blissfully unaware of the harm it causes.

Dima El Hassan is the Director of Programs at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 11, 2018, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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