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Food Waste Grows With the Middle Class


Massive food waste by humanity is an undisputed fact documented daily in tons of discarded scrapings from dinner plates around the world. It is now being measured as a serious threat to the global environment and economy, with an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world left uneaten at a cost of up to $400 billion a year in waste disposal and other government costs.

The food discarded by consumers and retailers in just the most developed nations would be more than enough to sustain all the world’s 870 million hungry people if effective distribution methods were available.

Unfortunately, most of the uneaten food goes to landfills where it decomposes and produces the dangerous greenhouse gas methane at a volume that amounts to an estimated 7 percent of the total emissions contributing to the global warming threat. This puts food waste by ordinary humans in third place in methane emissions behind the busy economies of China and the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. These stark facts have been laid out in a new report from the Waste and Resources Action Program, or WRAP, a British antiwaste organization. The organization warns that the problem is getting worse because the global middle class is, fortunately enough, expanding. According to the report, by 2030, consumer food waste will cost an estimated $600 billion a year — a 50 percent increase from current costs — unless there is a wide effort to change the trend.

Numerous antiwaste programs are underway, from backyard composting to restaurant donations to food pantries, from London’s campaign to cut food waste by 50 percent in five years to fish-drying innovations in West Africa that prevent spoilage. Reducing food waste by 20 percent to 50 percent could save an estimated $120 billion to $300 billion a year, according to the WRAP report.

This would take far more action by national and local governments, food producers and, most of all, consumers unaware of the mounting costs of their dinner scraps.

Source: NY Times


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