A 3rd of the world’s meals goes to waste – here is the right way to cease the rot

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Food waste isn’t just morally objectionable; it also produces vast amounts of greenhouse gases. But this is one food fight we can win, with simple actions at home and new tech in industry



Humans



22 September 2021

Fabio Buonocore

I OFTEN feel guilty in the kitchen. The problem isn’t my cooking; I live in France and pride myself on my culinary skills. The cause of my guilt is the amount of food I keep throwing away. A pile of leftover pasta, the uneaten salmon from my daughter’s plate, some expired tofu discovered at the back of the fridge – in it all goes. It sits there in a heap on top of the plastic packaging in which most of the food came wrapped.

It might be a modest heap in my kitchen bin, but, worldwide, food waste is a problem of supersized proportions. About a third of all produce is lost or wasted, most of it thrown into landfill. As that food rots, it produces vast amounts of greenhouse gases. If food waste were a country, its carbon footprint would almost match that of the US. You might say that instead of cooking our food, we are cooking the planet. No wonder that scientists, campaigners – and plenty of ordinary folk like me – are deeply worried.

I decided to turn to science and ask what we really know about how to make sure less food is squandered. It was eye-opening, to say the least. I have changed the way I shop and eat. My preferences on the way food is packaged have been transformed. I also learned that the food industry is at the beginning of some sweeping technological shifts, which could see food waste become not a problem, but an opportunity.

For most of human history, sustenance has been hard won and not something we would have dreamed of …

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