Posted on March 31 2020
Food Waste is a global problem that must be taken seriously and fought. In the light of current events, we want to advise against hamster purchases that produce enormous amounts of Food Waste, and appeal to the sensible handling of food. But what does "Food Waste" actually mean?
Although we at NIKIN are primarily concerned with sustainable materials in the fashion industry and fight against global deforestation, it is important to think sustainably in other areas of life as well. We want to motivate people to rethink their lifestyle and possibly make it more sustainable. It is well known that Food Waste is a major problem worldwide – some people have far too much, throw it away and others have nothing and suffer hunger. Especially in times of crisis we see a rapid increase in Food Waste. Education on the subject of Food Waste and its consequences is essential. This is the only way to do something about it.
What does "Food Waste" actually mean?
In the industrialized countries of the western world, people have an abundance of food at their disposal – we buy and have more than we need. This almost inevitably leads to discrepancies. The difference between what is available and what we actually consume is all the food we lose or actively throw away.
A distinction is made between food losses – that is, all the food that is lost in production or in the supply chain as a whole – and actual waste. The latter is all the food that we do not use. And that happens to every one of us. Every day. Too much bought and spoiled, a too big portion put on the plate...
Where do the major wrongdoers sit?
If we look into the causes, we can see that in Switzerland a third of the products produced are not consumed – about 2 million tonnes (!) of food a year. Half of this is disposed of either in private households or in restaurants and hotels. This amount corresponds to almost one meal per person per day. Incredible, isn't it? But it's true.
Why the waste?
In part, Food Waste is caused by standards or simply consumer preferences: vegetables and fruit are "disposed of" because they are not up to standard in size and shape. The same applies to production surpluses – before lowering the price, the excess is better destroyed. There are also unwanted defects during processing and transport.
An important factor is the so-called "best before" date – on every package the date up to which a food product should best be consumed must be indicated. Unfortunately, both shops and consumers interpret this recommendation as "throw it away afterwards". This means that even supermarkets throw away enormous quantities of absolutely good food every day. However, as already mentioned, households are among the biggest individual squanderers. In other words, the end consumers – we all are.
Elsewhere in the world the most necessary things are missing
While in the rich countries food is thrown away every day, in the less privileged areas of the world there is a lack of food. Southeast Asia and South America have widely been successful in the fight against hunger in recent years, while in Africa people still go to bed without adequate meals. One in nine people worldwide is starving or suffering from malnutrition. And this despite the fact that the amount of food produced globally could feed the world population.
Admittedly, if we don't throw anything away, it doesn't mean that hungry people elsewhere in the world will immediately have something to eat. On the other hand, falling sales would force producers to produce more sustainably and/or serve other markets.
Stopping Food Waste – but how?
To stop the loss and waste of food, of course, a concerted effort is needed, including at government level. But that alone is not enough. Since we are throwing away the most, the ball is in our court. There are various tricks we can use to outwit ourselves and not buy or order more than we really need.
For example, we should not go shopping hungry. You almost always buy more than you need. The same applies to the preparation – better peel one potato less than have to dispose of something later. Before eating, a large glass of water helps to fill your stomach – so you don't put unnecessarily large portions on your plate.
If you plan your meals on a weekly basis, you can buy the exact quantities in advance and also calculate in such a way that leftover food is used in the next day's meal. Cooking for two days is also legitimate to avoid waste.
A certain amount of order also helps with storage: always keep perishable food in the fridge, so you can see it and reach for it first. What cannot be eaten immediately can be frozen. But even in the freezer: age before beauty! In other words: put the freshest meals in the back. Because even frozen food does not have an unlimited shelf life.
The possibly ready-prepared meals in the freezer are ideal if you don't feel like cooking or want to serve more than one dish to guests. It just needs a little planning.
Are there projects against Food Waste?
In fact, from useful blogs to the "leftovers app", there are already quite a few projects that are helping to curb Food Waste. Recipes for "leftovers parties" are just as much a part of it as mobile apps that allow you to find nearby meals that are "Too Good To Go" – at very reasonable prices.
Retailers and large chains are also rethinking their approach. It is no longer a rarity for bakers to offer bread and pastries from the day before, at low prices. The "Äss-Bar" is very popular in Swiss cities. Supermarkets are also reducing the prices of products that are about to expire – or donating them before they expire, for example to lunches or similar social events.
Very far in the fight against Food Waste is France: there, supermarkets have not been allowed to throw away food for several years now. Instead, much more is donated to social institutions. But France does even more. Food Waste is officially punishable – so far the French are the only ones in the world to do so. If Food Waste is discovered, this can be punished with fines of up to 3'750 euros in fines. The successes are already impressive.
Alone against Food Waste
First of all – if you are now startled and want to do something, you can start with yourself. If everyone did that, it would be all right. Raising the issue among friends and colleagues is not a bad idea either. This applies all the more to all our readers who work in the gastronomy or food industry! If you want to do something beyond that, you can of course help shape opinion. This in the sense of a law against food wastage, but also through voluntary work in all areas where people are supplied with food who cannot afford everything that better-off people throw away. And yes, there are also possibilities in Switzerland!