A Short Guide to Food Waste Management

In order to feed the ever-increasing population, India has increased its farm output from 208 million tons in 2005 – 2006 to 263 million tons in 2013 – 2014. But still, India ranks 63rd out of the 78 hungriest countries according to the 2013 Global Hunger Index and 47% of Indian children are underweight according to UNICEF report. So what could an individual do to tackle food waste? Here are some steps and recommendations from the Circular Collective


At the global level, in 2018, about 2 billion people were affected by moderate or severe food security which is a 20% spike since 2014. According to a BCG (2018) report, the world cultivates nearly 4,678 million tons of food annually among which 1,555 million tons of food is wasted every year


What are the impacts of food waste?

The food system especially with its robust supply chain imprints a heavy carbon footprint. The environment is impacted by the food system in three major ways:

· Carbon footprint: It is the total amount of greenhouse gas emitted throughout its supply chain from the production to the consumer’s plate. Globally, the carbon footprint of food waste & loss is approximated to 4.4 Gtonnes of CO2.

· Water footprint: The net amount of water required in the whole supply chain from cultivation to getting the final product to the consumer’s plate.

· Land footprint: The total surface of land required to produce that food. The amount of land that goes for cultivation is important for climate change, biodiversity and biodiversity.


According to Jamie Crummie, Co-founder of ‘Too Good To Go’, food waste accounts for 8 – 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The food waste in a landfill decomposes to release methane and carbon dioxide gas which are responsible for Climate change. The leachate damages the water and soil. This causes short-term and long-term health effects like cancer, allergies, etc. in humans.


When incinerated to produce energy, it releases more carbon dioxide, 3 times more nitrogen dioxide and 28 times more dioxin per energy than natural gas or coal-fired power plants. The post-incineration products like bottom and fly ash are a potential harm to the environment.


Why does so much quantity gets wasted?

1. Over shopping: Impulsive buying/unplanned shopping result in over shopping. Some other reasons for surplus shopping include special offers and seasonal shopping.

2. Improper storage methods: Each food product has its own storage requirement. If not fulfilled then the product tends to get spoiled.

3. Mis-interpreting the labels: Consumers mostly get confused between ‘Use by’ and ‘Best before’ dates which result in a large quantity of food getting thrown away.

4. Ugly produces: The produces that are in improper shape are discarded from the supply chain (mainly at production or processing stage).

5. Excess storage period: When natural (like fruits, vegetables) or prepared food is stored for a longer duration then it tends to get spoiled.

6. Mis-handling: It may occur at various stages of the food supply chain like production, during transit and at the retail. Most damage occurs during the transportation of food product.


What are the ways to reduce food waste?

1. Shop the pantry and fridge: By checking the pantry and fridge prior going for shopping can result in a wise list of the products that are required for a household. It can help avoid impulsive buying thus reducing the food waste that is being produced.


2. Decode the labels: ‘Use by’ & ‘Best before’ doesn’t mean the same.

  • According to Dana Gunders, confusion around the different dates used in the food results in 60% of consumers throwing away food prematurely Use by date (throw-away date): It is the indication of safety. It tells after that date the food is not safe for consumption.

  • Best before date: It is the indication of quality. It tells that the taste or texture may not be the same as original but it is edible after this date (that is., serves only as a guarantee of quality).

3. Buy local: Local produces are always fresh and unpacked. It empowers the communities to strengthen their resilience & dignity. This ensures that each community as a whole can become sustainable.


4. Avoid the discount trap: Discounts and sales are a technique to clear the old stocks. Try not to fall in the trap and over the shop. It’s always better to prepare and stick to a list.


5. Love the ugly: Ugly produce doesn’t mean that the quality of the product is bad. Good produce always is in different shape, colours and size. Check out Farmtheory as part of our Changemaker Series!


6. Proper storage: Proper storage of the food produces is essential for it to stay longer. This short video will help to allocate a proper place for each food item & A – Z food storage guides about the way each food must be stored.


7. Educating: Awareness among the people must be increased by educating them about the importance of food. This can be done by visiting a nearby farm and cultivating some fruits and vegetables.


8. Get creative with leftovers: Leftovers can always be refrigerated and then reusing it. Reusing the leftovers is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste produced. Some websites like Zugut, Love Food Hate Waste & e-book by Chintan India have come up with some amazing recipes to utilize the leftovers at its best.


9. Composting: The minimum waste generate at home can be composted either at home or at a community level. A complete guide on composting by Ms Vani Murthy is available here and RHS is available here.


10. Carry your own: With the increasing use of single-use plastic packaging in the food retail sector, bring own packaging can help reduce the amount of single-use packaging going as waste. Even while placing an order for a take-away, some wise chooses can help to reduce a significant amount of packaging waste from the landfill.


11. Some easy DIY’s: There are different types of wastes that get thrown away from households, which can be used to do some easy DIY’s. This includes converting citrus peels into bio-enzyme which has a number of benefits, making vegetable stock from the vegetable peels, etc. are some excitant ways to reduce the food waste.


About the Author

Saravanakumaran Deivanayagiisan undergraduate student doing MBA(Tech.) in Chemical Engineering with a passion to work for Sustainability and Circular Economy. His mission is to educate people about Sustainability, Climate Change, Circular Economy & Water Accountability. Saravanakumaran wishes to make each household in India water sufficient, sustainable and zero-waster.

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