Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Up to one third of all food produced for humans is spoiled or wasted instead of eaten. That amounts to nearly 1.2 billion tonnes of food every year.

And that’s not just because some kids refuse to finish their supper.

A 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that 20 per cent of the fruit and vegetables grown in Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand are lost during production. That’s partly because it’s difficult for farmers to estimate how much to grow to meet demand, and partly because it’s hard to sell anything that isn’t the perfect size, shape, and colour.

The average American family also throws out 25 per cent of the food it buys, at an annual cost of US$1,365 to US$2,275, the study found.

Another recent study found that Canadians waste $31 billion of food every year.

In Metro Vancouver, households generate about 190,000 tonnes of food waste every year, of which 100,000 tonnes—more than half—could have been eaten. That includes 80,000 potatoes, 26,000 bananas and 32,000 loaves of bread thrown out every single day, according to Metro Vancouver’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

A third of that food is wasted because too much was purchased or it wasn’t eaten in time. Another 14 per cent is tossed because too much was cooked or served.

Research suggests that reducing food waste would benefit the economy and the environment. A 2015 study from the U.K.-based Waste & Resources Action Programme found that by 2030, a 20- to 50-per-cent reduction in consumer food waste could save US$120 billion to US$300 billion a year.

It also found that seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to food waste—3.3 billion tonnes per year. That amount could be cut by up to one billion tonnes per year through food waste reductions, the study concludes.

There are creative solutions out there. At UBC, more than 100 tonnes of food waste are composted annually on campus.

By Maura Forrest, 26 January 2017