Food waste globally is a massive challenge. With all the talk about plastic pollution this stream of waste has not received its due importance as not only does it have an adverse impact on the environment, but also poses one of the gravest social challenges of our times; that of providing sufficient food to over 190 million Indians that suffer undernutrition.
Globally one third of all food produced is either lost or wasted amounting to a staggering $940 in losses annually. If that’s not enough twenty five percent (25%) of all water used for agriculture is consumed in growing this loss. In India, as mentioned above, over 190 million people find them selves without enough food to eat, which represents fourteen point five (14.5%) of the countries population according to a report named “The Sate of Food & Nutrition in The World 2017” making India the largest undernutritioned nation in the world.
Chart Depicting Areas of Food Loss Globally
Where is this wastage happening? In India it is taking place at every level, harvesting, transporting, processing, packaging & consuming. Weddings, events, restaurants, hotels, homes are major sources of cooked and uncooked waste, but the majority of the food wastage happens before it is packaged, due to transportation and infrastructure bottle necks in the country. The importance measuring and monitoring food from production to consumption cannot be be emphasised enough if this giant needs to be tackled. Measuring & monitoring of waste has many benefits:
- Insuring food security
- Saving money (Who does not like that!)
- Reducing the adverse impact on our environment
- Saving landfill space. Land is increasingly a shrinking commodity.
What to measure is as important as why to measure, and there are four distinct components that need to be measured in order for us to derive the required information from the data that has been collected. What to measure:
- Type of Material
- Destination: Where the waste goes: Example: Animal feed, composting, co-processing, Landfill etc.
- Boundary: food categories, lifecycle stage, geography and organisation
After answering the why & what, we come to the the how. According to the food loos and waste protocol there are ten ways in which food waste can measured. Here is a link for your reference to read the ten different ways along with a brief definition of what they entail.
We at Eco Wise have devised a simple system that we will begin testing at certain restaurants, to help them reduce their food waste, which in tern will help them reduce that cost associated to procurement and disposal. The system entails a simple process of measuring and documenting purchase, stock, weight food before it is cooked, weight of food after it is cooked, weight of food along with the serving plate, weight of the serving plate after the consumer has consumed the food along with categorising and measuring each type of food bought, cooked, served and wasted. This at first seems like a tedious process, specially in ultra busy restaurants, but the economic advantages cannot be ignored. In a recent survey of 1200 business sites across 17 countries, it was found that ninety nine percent (99%) saved money, with half achieving fourteen fold or greater financial returns.
In our initial conversations with restaurants, we found that none of them are measuring or monitoring their waste, which is not surprising given the profit margins in the Resturant and hospitality business. Yet, if you can show them how they can make even more money by reducing their waste, it’s a win win for them and the environment. Most restaurant owners that we have spoken to are concerned about customer perception, specially to do with the use of plastic, with many if not most doing away with the use of plastic straws due to consumer pressure. The challenge with food waste is that it not been spoken about in the main stream social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or even Linkedin to the extent that we are speaking about plastic pollution. The entire cycle from farm to fork needs to be looked at from a critical perspective, with the sole Moto of reducing wastage at every stage through measuring, monitoring and implementing. Other mainstream campaigns also need to be prepared with the sole purpose of making them viral on social media platforms to inform consumers about the adverse effects of waste food so that reverse pressure may be deployed from the consumer demanding that companies, restaurants and governments start looking at food waste as one of the most serious challenges that we in India and globally face.