Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Consumers May Be Wasting Twice as Much Food as Previously Thought

Food
Large pile of discarded fruit and vegetables, some floating in water. James Arnold / Moment / Getty Images

Consumers may waste more than twice as much food as previously thought, a new study has found.


The study, published in PLOS ONE Wednesday, estimated that consumers wasted 527 calories per day per person, BBC News reported. That's more than double the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate of 214 calories per day per person.

"The problem is much worse than we think. We have to wake up. I hope it's a wake-up call," lead study author Monika van den Bos Verma of Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands told New Scientist.

In 2005, the FAO estimated that about a third of food was wasted, a Public Library of Science press release published by Phys.org explained. But the FAO only based its data on food supply. The new study is different in that it takes the affluence of consumers into consideration. The researchers comprised a data set using information on human metabolism as well as data from the FAO, the World Bank and the World Health Organization and then used it to estimate food waste globally as well as on a country by country basis. They found that once consumers enjoyed spending power of $6.70 per person per day, the amount of food they wasted began to increase.

"Food waste is a luxury when you're poor, it's not when you're richer. The value of food, it goes down [as you get richer]. It's also availability: the more you have, the more you're likely to waste," Van den Bos Verma told New Scientist.

The increased estimate of 527 calories wasted comes from 2005 data, so that it could be readily compared to FAO data from the same year. However, New Scientist pointed out that there were some weaknesses in the new study. It only covers 67 percent of the world's population and did not include any data from the U.S. and some other highly wasteful countries. The UK food waste group WRAP also said it had used a similar approach to calculate waste and found that it tended to overestimate the amount of food wasted. It said such models should be supplemented with data coming directly from consumers' kitchens.

However, food waste remains a serious issue, and the researchers warned it could become more of one as less affluent countries grow wealthier and develop more wasteful habits.

The researchers recommended both reducing waste in high-income countries and making sure waste does not increase in developing ones, according to the Public Library of Science release.

Some tips for reducing waste include reducing portion sizes, only buying exactly what you need and increasing the cultural value of food, BBC News reported.

"From what we currently have in our kitchens we could feed five persons instead of four if we don't waste," study coauthor Dr. Thom Achterbosch, also of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, told BBC News.

In addition to exacerbating world hunger, food waste is also a climate issue. The UN estimates that lost or wasted food accounts for nearly 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to BBC News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less