24.12.2018 change 24.12.2018

Expert: Wasting food is an ethical, environmental and economic problem

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Wasting food is an ethical, environmental and economic problem of global proportions. Each of us can contribute to its reduction, for example by prudently planning shopping, properly storing food and sharing it with those in need, believes Dr. Agata Rudnicka from the University of Lodz.

According to the latest Eurostat data, 235 kg of food per person is wasted annually in Poland, which combined with business activity gives a total of about 9 million tons. In this statistics, we are sadly in the 5th place in the EU. The EU average is 173 kg per person, or a total of 88 million tons of wasted food across the Union. The attitude of consumers is also a big problem, because more than half of this food is wasted in households.

"If we combine the problem of wasting food with hunger, which according to statistics now affects over 800 million people worldwide, it is quite irresponsible on the part of consumers and business that we continue to allow ourselves to waste resources" - says Dr. Agata Rudnicka from the Faculty of Management of the University of Lodz.

She points out that wasting food is not only a very important ethical problem. It is also an environmental problem, because we are wasting resources, which we are depleting, and thus we are intensifying problems related to water resources, or, for example, carbon dioxide emissions. But if we are not convinced by ethical or environmental reasons, then perhaps an economic argument will work: according to estimates, each of us throws out about 2 thousand zlotys worth of food every year, she adds.

According to the expert, wasting food in households occurs for several reasons. First of all, we do not plan shopping well, we buy too much, unreasonably and excessively. We do not check the expiration dates or we store food improperly. This means that at some point we have to throw it away. We usually throw away bread, fruits, vegetables and meats.

In this case - in addition to legal solutions for business - educational and consumer awareness activities are important. According to Dr. Rudnicka, an interesting example was a campaign run by the Food Banks in cooperation with one of the chain stores, encouraging shoppers to buy "lonely bananas", protecting them from being wasted and thrown away.

Especially before Christmas, when we buy more food, we should remember about a few rules and careful purchase planning. "Do a list before going shopping. Think about whether you need all these ingredients. Use products that you already have at home and start with the products that were bought at the earliest" - advises Dr. Rudnicka.

She also reminds that there donating surplus food is also a possibility. During the holiday season, for example, there are "adoptions of uneaten dumplings", and cities open eat sharing places, where you can leave food that you do not need, and it can still be used by others.

"These are open places, they can be used by all those who are in a worse situation, or simply have a use for that food" - she adds.

According to Dr. Rudnicka, the business sector is still guilty of wasting food in its supply chains. This is due to both imperfect demand forecasting systems and errors in the processes of storage, transport, distribution, but first of all production.

"According to some estimates, up to 50% products are wasted during the production process" - emphasises the expert. A lot of food is wasted by distributors, large store chains or restaurants, where not everything can be sold before expiration date.

Sometimes there are aesthetic reasons, because in the customers` opinion some fruits or vegetables are "not pretty enough". "As consumers, we have become accustomed to buying beautiful fruits and vegetables that are supposed to meet the highest aesthetic standards, meaning they should be straight, shiny, without any spots or marks that could disqualify a product. This means that some products are thrown away because they do not meet these standards" - says Dr. Rudnicka.

Opportunities to counteract this include educational campaigns making consumers aware that "uglier products" are also fully valuable.

"It seems like a good time to raise this problem in the debate about wasting food - how much this aesthetics, meeting standards, is actually a consumer habit, and whether we can still afford it" - the expert adds.

In the case of business, possible solutions include legal regulations that would result in less food being wasted. Dr. Rudnicka gives the example of France - the first country in the world that legally banned food wasting by retail chains. The entire surplus of goods, which are wholesome products, has to be donated to charitable organizations. Tax regulations that facilitate the transfer of free food have also been introduced in Poland.

"This debate on legal solutions is taking place also in Poland. The situation is better, as business representatives we can also transfer this surplus for free, the tax issues have already been resolved. But we are still in the course of this debate and we will see in which direction it will go" - the expert says.

"Responsible choices shape the world, and in the case of the problem of hunger and wasting food, this gains a special meaning" - concludes Dr. Agata Rudnicka from the University of Lodz.

PAP - Science in Poland, Kamil Szubański

szu/ agt/ kap/

tr. RL

Copyright © Foundation PAP 2019