Yes, throwing away food worsens climate change

Food leftovers. [Getty Images]

I grew up at a time throwing away food leftovers was akin to sacrilege. It could earn one a thorough beating or unplanned fasting. Fridges existed, yes, but I never really touched one until I visited a relative in the city.

There was no room to pack that little food you were too full to finish. One was reminded of that child sleeping hungry in the streets, or people who only had a meal a day, or none. The guilt trip made us clear everything we served. It taught us to serve only what we could consume, and add only if necessary. Today’s parent is more tolerant; if a child does not feel like clearing their plate, that food can be discarded. So, we throw food that has gone bad, that we think has gone bad but hasn’t, or what we do not feel like eating. Some food ends up in the bin without passing through the table.

This, added to the other wastage and loss that happens as the food is produced, distributed and sold, is contributing to a global problem that has necessitated change of behaviour and perception of food.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation, “global food loss and waste contributes about 8 per cent of total anthropogenic GHG emissions”.

This “contribution of food wastage emissions to global warming” is says, “is almost equivalent (87 per) to global road transport emissions”. Researchers say that these emissions from food waste are three times more than that of the aviation industry.

Apparently, up to 37 per cent of the food wasted globally is from households. Wasted food ends up in dumping sites, decomposes and produces methane, a GHG that is worse than the infamous CO2 that features everywhere global warming and climate change are discussed. You therefore contribute to global warming whenever you waste food.

But that is not all. Have you ever considered the effort and resources that go to producing the food wasted? The fertiliser, fuel and water used to produce and sometimes manufacture, distribute or even package the food. What of time, plus the means you use to get the food, some which may be responsible for emission of CO2!

The resources used to get the food may be yours, and you can always buy more. But, even morally, why throw food when many needy people surround us? If this same food was shared with the poor, lives would be saved while at the same time the atmosphere is spared dirty gases.

A recent report by the World Bank shows increased chances of food insecurity due to rising costs, exacerbated by drought, the war in Ukraine among other issues. Many poor families have resorted to skipping meals to survive, yet a lot of their income still goes to food first.

Ending food wastage does not require more than attitude change, especially by the “rich”. You can start by buying only what you need. Those unpleasant bananas, for instance, may not be best to consume as a fruit, but can be used to bake. Several overripe fruits can be blended into juice.

Stuffing your fridge with food and leaving the freezer empty may be contributing to the fear that food that has taken so long may have gone bad. Some food particles can be turned into fertiliser.