This summer, Eatizz visited Quebec’s biggest environmental event Ecosphere to raise awareness about food waste and explain its impact on the environment. We based our presentation on « Acting against environmental pollution by reducing food waste ».
Food waste is one of the leading actors of climate change and can be held accuntable for major environmental problems such as deforestation, lake and river contamination, loss of biodiversity in different ecosystems, and more. To relate one to the other, it is important to comprehend in which ways food waste is polluting.
Sometimes described as the illusion of choice, we live in a world where some products are so cheap that it becomes difficult to buy some of better quality. These cheaper products are generally sold in large quantities to reduce the market’s competition and are generally those that end up in the trash. These products are generally grown intensive agriculture systems, where the use of fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs are at the heart of its development.
Soils contaminating soils
Using a smaller portion of land, intensive agriculture can produce more than traditional agriculture but the soil gets drained of its nutrients. The soil, depleted of some its nutrients, becomes less productive and gets overwhelmingly sprinkled with fertilizers and pesticides to compensate for the loss and achieve a better productivity.
An abundant use of fertilizers and pesticides tends to get rid of a lot of the soil fauna and cause the loss of biodiversity. Because of the heavy machinery, the soils become dense and often suffer heavy flooding. Nowadays pesticides can be found practically everywhere, and can even be found in organic foods due to lands contaminating neighboring ones during such floods or strong winds. Pesticides used in this type of agriculture often contain agents susceptible of triggering cancer diseases that can be spread by air or are contained in the product itself.
The destruction of marine food webs
Marine food webs are all the relationships between species which either get eaten or eat the other, for example: plankton<-salmon<-bear. Water contaminated with pesticides can be found in subterranean waters and can contaminate rivers and seas (which can cause an eutrophication phenomenon –abundance of products at the water’s surface that kills marine life below-) and have a devastating impact on marine biodiversity.
The growing need to purchase the cheapest products lead to intensive agriculture’s rise during the industrialization of agriculture, better known as the agricultural revolution or green revolution. These successful « industrial » farmers expand and turn natural areas into agricultural fields. In Brazil, the example can be illustrated with the disappearance of 18,2% of the Amazon rainforest remplaced by the countless livestock and agricultural fields of Mato Grasso. Instead of absorbing air pollution, ancient forests become the methane rejected by cows and consume 15,500 liters of water for every kilogram of meat to be sold.
Lands with agricultural purposes use up more than a third of the world’s land area (37.7%) and 28% of them produce food that will never be eaten. To help you visualise it, we are talking about 1.4 billion hectares of agricultural lands that produce tomorrow’s waste, an area larger than Canada (0.9 billion hectares), which is the second largest country in the world by area. If food waste were a country it would be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the United States and China.
What are the solutions?
About two-thirds of food waste occurs at the production and distribution level and the last third is made by consumers who buy too much food and waste it unthinkingly. In Canada, approximately 30 to 40% of food is wasted at the consumer’s level. It is important to learn about the different ways to reduce food-waste at home. In the UK, food waste at home was reduced of 18% with organisms such as Love Food, Hate Waste.
Read and learn how to store fresh produce and read the « expiration date » of a product correctly in order to avoid wasting when there is no health risk.