Wasted food costs UK households hundreds of pounds a year. Around seven million tonnes of food end up in landfill in the UK annually, and producing and distributing edible food that goes to waste may account for as much as 5% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions.
So wasted food hurts our pockets and the planet. But it’s also deeply unfair. Tristram Stuart, author of 'Waste' estimates that wasted cereal based foods in the UK and USA would lift 224 million people out of hunger.
But if we waste less food will it really benefit people or the environment? We already know that hunger and malnutrition can exist when food is readily available. And it’s likely that the resources we save by cutting food waste will be put to producing and consuming other things, including more resource-intensive foods, biofuel crops or textiles.
Will cutting food waste mean we’ll live within our economic and ecological means? Only if it goes hand in hand with efficiencies in resource use through effective pollution controls and production standards. But even this could penalise the world’s most food insecure, who are often subsistence farmers.
Unless we confront the causes of our throwaway society, throwing away less food won’t make our lifestyles more sustainable. Reducing food waste will only make a difference if it goes hand in hand with: