When asked what things in our lives we couldn’t live without, we may say family, oil, water, trees and food, perhaps then followed by money, our homes, maybe our collection of electronic devices and then, quite questionably, Facebook or Snapchat.
Yet, if food is among the list of necessities we value dearly, why do we waste it so nonchalantly? While a startling number of people don’t have access to it, those that do are shockingly wasteful.
British households reportedly grace landfills with 7 million tonnes of wasted food every year – that’s enough to feed each child born in the past 11 years, every day, of every year they’ve been alive. And yet, 64% of adults in the UK are considered obese, while over 1 million British citizens in crisis were given food supplies via food banks between 2014 – 2015.
That’s something to think about the next time a perfectly edible banana is thrown away due to a mere bruising.
And while recycling regulations have been imposed heavily here for householders, France this week has become the first country in the world to pass a law on supermarkets banning them from throwing away unsold food. Instead, they are to donate leftover items to charities and foodbanks. About time.
It follows after a lengthy campaign by anti-poverty activists, calling the government to crack down on food waste. On top of trying to reduce food wastage and providing more to those in need, measures have also been put in place to stop supermarkets from destroying or damaging unsold foods before being thrown out.
There have been previous incidents where supermarkets have poured bleach over discarded food in an attempt to deter scavengers from their bins – apparently inhibiting any possible suing through consuming unsold foods is of greater importance than providing starving people with food they may need.
So why do we waste so much food? With supermarkets endlessly competing for the best ‘roll back’ and ‘crunched’ prices, food is easily accessible almost everywhere, and for cheap prices. In some ways, this has devalued food to the point where throwing away a £2 or £3 item isn’t even remarkable – but it’s not the cost we should be focussing on here, but the fact we’re letting good food go to waste.
Our mentality is also driven by a heavily consumerist society, where having the latest iPhone is made out to be a necessity for maximum satisfaction, or buying the newest ‘Push Up’ mascara is a must – even though it is more or less exactly the same as the ‘Volumize’ make you already have at home. Food now takes a similar standpoint: we probably have a freezer full of perfectly good food, but order a takeaway instead.
Nonetheless, there are growing signs of the UK taking a more encouraging, economically-appropriate stance on food waste: supermarket chain, Tesco, donated over 1.5 million meals from its stores and continues to lead in the reduction of food waste in retail globally.
Asda has also begun to jump on the anti-food-waste bandwagon, by introducing their own £3.50 Wonky Veg Box, consisting of misshapen or crooked vegetables to last at least a week. As to why there is a need to make organic looking and naturally appealing vegetables attractive to the masses though, is baffling.
One has to wonder: if the true environmental cost of our food were included in the pricing, would we be so willing to waste it?
The sky high wall of waste (in not only food, but also other aspects of life, like fashion) is evidently one result of following capitalist economic rules, and just goes to show that these imposed economics are not working very well in reality.
Although the move in France is a small victory overall, bigger steps need to be taken to not only reduce food waste to an absolute minimum, but to remind us all to stop taking our meals for granted. We’d soon complain if it wasn’t readily available, so we need to stop treating the system so terribly.