New Delhi: One-third of all food in India is wasted or gets spoilt before it is eaten, states FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India). As per the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2021, household food waste in India is estimated to be around 50 kg per person annually. Further highlighting the seriousness of the food wastage in India, Chintan, an environmental NGO that works for environmental sustainability and social justice in its report on ‘Food Waste in India’ estimated value of food wastage in the country is around Rs. 92,000 crores per annum and is an issue that needs attention since despite adequate food production in the country, about 190 million Indians remain undernourished.
Food Wastage And Its Adverse Impact On The Environment
That’s not all, the other worrisome part about food wastage is its negative impact on the environment. According to UNEP’s estimates, 8-10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.
The Logic – when we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. World Wildlife Fund shares a striking example to weigh in this fact and adds – in the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, it states that if food goes to the landfill and rots it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. WWF adds that about 6%-8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced, if we stop wasting food.
Talking with Banega Swasth India team, Sunish Jauhari, President, Vitamin Angels India, an international NGO that works on eradicating malnutrition and tackle deficiencies like Vitamin A and Anaemia said,
Climate change and our existing food systems are intrinsically linked. On the one hand, unsustainable farming practices, use of fertilisers, fossil fuels, food processing, packaging, distribution, all of that directly adds to rising temperatures, on the other hand, rising temperatures cause irregular rainfall, floods, fires and so on. The use of fertilisers in farming increases the concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere by 1.4 per cent on an average every year since 1980. Furthermore, use of fossil fuels in farm machinery, food processing, packaging, transportation and retail are also major contributors to global warming. The available evidence suggests that India’s food security is also under threat from climate change.
Pradnya Paithankar, Head (Programme Operations), United Nations World Food Programme said,
Food wastage and hunger coexist in the world, and this situation is becoming a huge problem. The question is how to achieve the equitable distribution by leaving no one behind and how to make 1.3 billion tons of food lost through losses and wastage, available to about 1.6 billion people across the globe, people who really need it. Sensitivity on food supply chains, reducing transportation, choosing crops wisely are some of the ways to begin with. I also think, individuals can be great change makers, if they start reducing food wastage from their own house, it will have a long and positive future impact.
List Of Greenhouse Gases Produced With Food Wastage
United Nations also adds that the largest chunk of food-related greenhouse gases comes from agriculture and land use. The list includes:
• Methane from cattle’s digestive process
• Nitrous oxide from fertilisers used for crop production
• Carbon dioxide from cutting down forests for the expansion of farmland
• Other agricultural emissions from manure management, rice cultivation, burning of crop residues, and the use of fuel on farms
What Individuals Can Do To Tackle Food Wastage?
Now that we have understood the serious implications our food choices have on the environment, here are a few tips to help you get started and reduce food wastage:
• Planning Is Crucial: Plan ahead and buy only what you need
• Believe In The Power Of Leftovers: Keep your kitchen on track, try to eat leftovers, think of meals you might eat out, and avoid unnecessary purchases by planning your grocery list ahead of time
• Use Your Freezer, Frozen Food Is Also Nutritious: Many of us live in the era where we often believe that frozen food is not good for our health and not nutritious. According to World Wildlife Fund, while there are plenty of benefits to eating fresh food, frozen foods can also be nutritious. They also stay edible for much longer. By buying frozen seafood, you can extend the shelf life of the product considerably. Cooking and freezing food—specially produce—before it goes bad is a great way to avoid food wastage
Don’t Throw Away The Peels
Peels and seeds are edible! One can actually eat potatoes and cucumber with their skins on, which is also loaded with tonnes of vitamins and minerals.
Innovate! Think of ways in which you can use the peels, for example, potato peels can become crispy fritters, if you will fry them separately. Banana peels can be used as a polish alternative.
Voice It Up!
Make people aware about food wastage and spread awareness of ways in which individuals can reduce food wastage at home itself that way, you will end up saving million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.