Food Science Universe (FSU)

Food Wastage and Its Impact on Environment

Food is the main source that gives us energy and strength to do our daily routine work. But somehow unfortunately or due to our negligence, about 1.3 billion tons of food goes wasted worldwide annually.

The food which goes wasted is one-third of the total food that is manufactured for the overall population of the world.

About 11 percent of the global population is under chronic malnutrition, which is leading them to die on a daily basis. But instead of reaching to their plate the food is going wasted regularly with us.

The history of food wastage is directly linked to globalization. ‘Food waste’ and ‘food loss’ are commonly used terms but

a. Food loss typically refers to the food lost during the earlier stage of production such as harvest, production and transportation.

b. Food waste refers to the items fit for human consumption but thrown away often at supermarkets or by the consumers.

The food is mainly lost at the production stage due to improper handling and inexperience of the persons. The food is wasted so the wealth is wasted.

There are 5 main ways in which the environment is being impacted by the food wastage:

1. Water Wastage

There is a lot of water is used for the manufacturing of different kinds of foods. When we waste the food the water that was used in planting, growing and manufacturing of the food is also going wasted. For instance, if we throw out 1kg of beef, we waste 50,000 liters of water that was drunk by a buffalo to make its meat. Similarly, we waste 1,000 liters of water by wasting a glass of milk. And remember that around 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is used only for agriculture.

2. Oil Wastage

This is another side effect of wastage of food on the environment. Oil, diesel and other fossil fuels are used for the growing, transporting, storing and cooking of the food. If the food is going wasted, all the cost of the oils, fuels and the other equipment is wasting too. Wasting fuels and oils at the front or back end of the production has a hidden but costly impact on the environment.

3. Methane Production

The food that ended up in the piles of rubbish and landfills gets rotten, produces foul smell pollution along with methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. It traps infrared radiation and causes global warming. Hence, the earth’s temperature is raised gradually.

4. Land Wastage

1.4 billion hectares of the total land is used for agriculture. When looking at food waste at the production site, about 99 percent of the waste occurs on the land with extremely high levels of degradation, which puts undue stress on land that already worked hard to produce food for us.

5. Biodiversity Extinction

‘Biodiversity’ is simply a fancy word for the diversity of living organisms in an environment. The deforestation (clearing of land) to make agricultural land causes a great loss in the habitat of many wild plants and animals, which makes them endangered and hence destroy them. Marine life is also getting disturbed by the dumping of human and food waste into the oceans. 

Author: Zain Ali (MSc in Environmental Sciences)

Address: Government College University, Faisalabad, Pakistan 



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