Food waste is inferred from unconsumed food as a product of discarded, expired, or spoiled food. Katherine Anne Porter depicted that you waste life when you waste good food. The food waste issue has been elevated as a dire international concern globally in recent days.

Food wastes are the cause of overproduction or overbuying too. It does not make good sense to over-purchase the food upon no need and pile it up on the roadside.

Numerous causes of food waste have been identified so far, which entail a delay in delivery, mishandling, poor temperature handling and pressure to preserve, rodents, misuse, the input of the poor food quality, and damage during the food transfer and transformations.

Research findings concerning the food waste issue

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Global contributors to food waste (source)

Scientists in the present context have estimated that the food waste problem will double within a few years. Roughly 931 million tons of food get wasted every year from the household’s retails and food services. The report further illustrates roughly to go 17 % of the food waste in the coming days.

In the past, numerous studies regarding food waste have estimated that the primary cause of food waste in developing countries is consumer food waste; instead, production, storage, and transportation in developing countries.

Food and the Agriculture organization under United Nations lamented that approximately 690 million people faced starvation in the year, which was expected to increase even more in the post-COVID pandemic.

It truly reflects how the world is going through hunger and starvation at an unprecedented rate in the coming days. Still, the children and women of various countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda face malnutrition since they have nothing to feed on for a prolonged period.

The research findings in the eastern part of Africa in the year 2021 insisted that 7 million people are at starvation risk possessing 33.8 million people with food insecurity issues. Until the country adopts a strong strategy and seeks support from other countries, the children will be continuing to go through starvation.

If we succeed in saving one-quarter of the food we have wasted, it would certainly be enough to feed 870 million people who faced starvation.

The climate change issue is on the run throughout the globe. Research predicts that reducing food waste seems to be the third effective way to address the problems conserving climate change-induced effects.

Roughly estimation by the researchers reveals that one-third of all food production results in global waste. If we cannot eradicate the food waste issues, it’s evident that we cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims shortly.

Effects of food waste on the environment

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Food waste and GHGs emissions (source)

Wasting food does not entail only the food; instead, it increases the water required to harvest the food production, the laborers’ energy, and efforts.

Once the water is consumed unsustainably in food production, it may lead to water scarcity. The increase in food waste tremendously in the species’ habitat does threaten the animals’ survival.

Even a tiny alteration can result in ripple effects in the ecosystems causing the species to be the victim and can lead to biodiversity loss.

Since we are increasing the human population tremendously, it should be reasonably known that food wastes should not be grown primarily; instead, they feed many people sustainably. 

Our food waste is confined to the landfill site as the last option. Once it is piled up at the landfill site over the years, it decomposes, resulting in leachate formation.

From the environmental perspective, the leachate is severe in emitting the gases such as methane, thereby contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Since methane gas is considered more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, one could easily imagine the effects of the leachate in our natural greener living environment.

The leachate, once reached the underground and the water resources system ruins the water. It does adverse alteration entailing climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and pollution sectors.

1. Climate change

In the name of growing more food, the trees have been cut down randomly in haphazard ways. The trees which produce the purified oxygen once cut could not assist us in surviving the greener environment.

Along with this, the wasted food emits methane gas, a massive contributor to greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. It indicates how food waste affects reaches up global warming.

It increases the burden of the landfill site with the occurrence of pollution issues, massive investment in waste management, and growing food insecurity.

Besides it, it is a critical cause of the greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere every year globally, thereby creating significant effects on a wide array of sectors.

2. Wildlife in extinction brick

Several research reports support the findings that most of the wasted food includes fruits and vegetables. Wildlife gets highly attracted to food waste.

Most troublingly, feeding on the decayed foods by the terrestrial and the aquatic wildlife might negatively influence the prey-predator relationships, the number of the species population, and the reproduction rate. Studies illustrate that every year roughly 7 billion tons of wasted fish are dumped in the ocean.

In the ocean, seagull gets hugely attracted to the wasted fishes. Since the seagulls feed on the local fishes, consuming the unhealthy fishery wastes could seriously affect the health of the local fishes and the creatures in the ocean.

3. Modification in the food chain and food web

The food chain is inferred as the most significant natural phenomenon which acts as a guardian to the role of the ecosystem.

From the mammals of the terrestrial land to the small crabs of the ocean, it is governed by the natural food chain and the food web. 

Increment in food wastage at an alarming rate could undoubtedly impact the natural balance. Once the top predator (tertiary consumer) gets with the wastage of food through the food web process, it could affect even the prey (primary consumers) in the forest, grassland, and the aquatic ecosystem.

Solutions regarding the food waste

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Zero food waste is a solution (source)

Adopting the healthier diet strategy, consuming the food only upon need, and storing the food by respecting them in a safer environment is foremost to control food waste.

Apart from these, the application of eco-friendly brands and monitoring of the stock levels by the retailers could be the ideal options aimed to reduce the issues of food waste all around the world. It can, without a doubt, address the issue of pollution once the consumer gets to habituate in purchasing local food productions.

As the saying goes, ‘trash into cash’ any leftover food is always not a waste.’ It produced various benefits once utilized safely and adequately.

The leftover food can be used as other ingredients in the other meal. In terms of compost manure, food waste is considered exemplary.

Since the food waste comprises organic constituents, the food waste can be converted into compost by the bacterial decomposition process.

In the sense of an eco-friendly approach, food waste composting provided nutrients to the soil, thereby enhancing the agricultural yield and thus, contributing significantly to the reduction of carbon footprints.

Food waste never acts as a curse; instead of a boon for those who know the actual value of food. Additionally, the decomposed food wastes sustainably can be utilized in the biogas, which is eco-friendly and healthy in terms of a cleaner environment.

A large delivery of the foods upon transportation in several locations does increase the chance of emitting harmful gases, thereby increasing air pollution. Once the consumers consume the local foods, it decreases the delivery distances and could curb the greenhouse gas extinctions.

Scientists, environmentalists, and climate change enthusiasts have warned global that there will be a doubling of the food waste in the present world continues to present in this form.

We could agree with the fact that sometimes the food may get wasted. But instead of throwing and confining it to landfill sites, it could be the best option if we release it into the food banks so that the hungry and the starved people would consume it to get rid of the hunger. 

To boot, using the app related to the food inferred as Ohio can also assist in addressing food waste issues to some extent. It ultimately ensures food security for the poor and the hungry community.

With the aim of Sustainable Development Goals to halve the food waste issue, it seems of utmost necessity to have extensive research in food waste concerning basically to the future prediction of the food waste through modeling and the status of starvation shortly.

It is imperative to gain insight regarding the data collection of food waste, a guideline to measure the food waste and set up national plans and the strategy.

Conclusion

Plenty of actions are foremost aimed to reduce the food waste issue worldwide. Food wastage has impacted the daily human livelihood; instead, it has created a severe hamper on the other living creatures.

In a nutshell, it does alter the natural phenomena of the working mechanism and the nutrient cycling. With the world facing the food wastage environmental issue, it is vital to carry the actions which prevent our food for a prolonged period and ensure food security.

(Last Updated on July 8, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.