Canada’s $31-billion food waste problem

Canada’s $31-billion food waste problem

from the toronto star i’m adrian shum and this matters 31 billion dollars is clearly a lot of money would you believe that’s how much we waste in food in canada every year it’s a lot of money and a lot of food more than half of all food produced every year around 35 million tons is wasted or lost according to second harvest in toronto it hits our pocketbooks the average canadian household chucks eleven hundred dollars worth of food into the trash but the waste is not just financial many canadians are going without as usage of food banks has surged especially in the pandemic it’s terrible for the environment food waste pumps millions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions into the air a un report this year on food waste called canada one of the worst culprits in the world not to harsh your vibe this summer but how do we all be more thoughtful and considerate about how we eat how do we hold food producers and companies accountable for their waste on this matters we’re talking to jack freeze chair of the national zero waste council jack is also the mayor of the township of langley in british columbia we’ll talk about how big the problem of food waste is but also some practical easy to use tips to get you started right now to reduce our waste jack thanks for taking the time to talk to us about this well thank you very much for the invitation it’s a pleasure to be here when we start talking about food waste in canada you know there are so many big numbers that get thrown around 31 billion dollars worth of food every year ends up in landfills more than half 58 of all food in canada gets lost or wasted every year but to you what are the most important numbers that you want canadians to know about how big the food waste problem is yeah it is a big problem i think we can all relate you know just take it right down to our own household where you know you go to the grocery store you buy that beautiful looking bag of apples and take them home and one thing leads to another you eat a couple of them and you look in the fridge and it’s oh they’re getting a little bit bruised they’re getting a little bit soil so you toss them out that’s you know right in our own in what we’re doing every day in canada is food is being wasted and inadvertently you know no fault of anybody but i think it’s you know we take down our basic numbers but looking at the big numbers see how really big this problem can be i’ve got some statistics here and it’s always fun to take a look at something that we can really relate to so 470 000 heads of lettuce are wasted every year 1.2 million tomatoes that’s a lot 2.4 million potatoes 750 000 loaves of bread 1.2 million apples 555 000 bananas you know those bananas that get that brown color and that’s the time to make banana bread i would say 1 million cups of milk and 450 000 eggs so those are some real numbers that kind of puts it in perspective the amount of food that we waste the ghg that’s wasted because of that waste is the equivalent of about 2 million cars 2.1 million cars that we could take off the road if we would say you know basically that’s equivalent to hd gas so one ton of food waste is equal to the pollution that one car produces so those are some real numbers and you can see what a big problem is and it starts with that just like i said you know we as consumers tend to waste up to eleven hundred dollars or an average of eleven hundred dollars worth of food per year in our household that’s almost a hundred dollars a month out of our grocery bill and those are real numbers and you know that adds up to 17 billion a year in canada so you can see the magnitude of the problem and this is something that’s little things that we can do little changes that we can do in our own home that make a difference beyond the simple utter waste of it all you know throwing away edible food literally throwing away your money into the trash can why is food waste such a big problem how does it contribute to climate change and environmental issues yeah so as i was mentioning you know canada’s 2.2 million tons of avoidable household food waste and we’re not talking about food waste that comes from the you know the producer in the farm there’s all the way along the chain there’s food waste it goes to the processor in the grocery store if it doesn’t look quite right it’s you know tossed out or hopefully it’s reused someplace else or composted or sent to food banks but that doesn’t always happen but just in our own household like i mentioned 2.2 million tons of affordable household waste is equivalent to 9.8 million tons of co2 which is equivalent to 2.1 million cars so you can see how it affects our environment and to produce that food it takes energy there’s no way around it i’m a farmer when i’m not mayor and not chair of national zoo a council i do operate a farm and it takes energy to produce a crop and that energy if it’s used to produce a crop and then that crop or that item of food is not used that’s wasted a complete waste and so it trickles right through our entire economy so everyone has a part to play and i’ve seen some really great programs come out not only from you know this program for consumers for people like you and me but for producers and for distributors and for grocery stores and how they’re being more careful and how they’re using that food if it looks like it’s going to go to waste it goes to a better cost a food bank or to charities and that sort of thing so there’s a lot of ways to do it but yeah economically and environmentally it’s a big issue we’ll be right back of course the consumer we have a lot of responsibility here but when we consider the producers the food manufacturers the retailers the grocery chains i go back to that 31 billion number a majority of it 21 billion dollars is wasted at the food manufacturing and processing level so clearly it’s not just about what we do right isn’t part of solving the food waste issue also about holding food companies and businesses responsible for what they’re doing yes it certainly is everybody has to take responsibility and just be clear the household waste is about 21 so you know one-fifth of the problem so it goes all the way through you know part of it is we’ve been conditioned in canada to eat perfect food you know the apple and the grocery store has to be perfect it can’t have a blemish it can’t be out of shape and we seem to have grown up with that and really that’s wrong there’s a lot of good food out there that may not be appealing to the eye quite so much because of a blemish but it’s good food i know most of the producers they’ll look at ways to divert that into juices or into other products so that you know they’re selling what looks the best but you know there’s a lot that can be done in changing our own behavior so that the producers and grocery stores have an opportunity to sell that product and get it out there and maybe a little bit lower cost to help people but you know how it’s produced is obviously going to be some waste all the time there’s always going to be production waste there’s always going to be something that happens but i think it’s to everyone’s best bottom line is to do the best they can and you know in my farm operation i want to make sure that everything i grow i’m in a poultry business gets to the market it’s really important to me and i don’t want to see the waste along the way and so everyone has a part to play you’re right on about that you know we as consumers you know i just say we can all do our bit but it goes beyond that too it goes to businesses and goes to producers it goes all the way along the chain so for consumers then for people who buy groceries you know not everybody’s a poultry farmer like you as well but you know people who just go into grocery stores let’s bring it back to what they can do on a day-to-day basis what can they do to cut back on food waste or at least not be part of the problem and rethink about the way that they’re using food what tips do you have you know it’s buying what you need first of all you know sometimes we shop with our eyes now with our practicality and it looks good you buy it and it sits in the back of the fridge and doesn’t get used and then you know two weeks later you’re throwing it out really it’s important to plan your meals and plan what you’re gonna be doing and buy what you need and what you know you’re gonna consume that’s the first step the second step is ensure that when you do get it home that it’s stored properly and it’s preserved properly it might be you know man that was a good idea to buy that pork chop yesterday but i’m not going to get to eat it tonight because i’ve been asked out for dinner it’s going to go in the freezer but don’t just leave in the fridge and then two weeks later you have to throw it out it’s how we store our food and buying what we need is important and then looking at ways to use that food in other ways the love food hate waste campaign that we have there’s a website love food hate waste dot ca there’s some tips and tricks on how to utilize food that you might think i can’t do anything with this so we’re trying to get the word out but there’s all kinds of opportunities on the internet to find ways to use food new recipes creative recipes that are easy so it doesn’t go away so we all have a part to play and you know really as consumers when we do go to the grocery store the grocery stores are there to work with their customers to give the customers what they want it’s up to us as customers to go on and say you know what why is just this choice here why don’t we have these other choices and you know food that would normally go away so you know another one you know it’s always puzzling for people or best before dates yeah explain that yeah so best before date is best before it doesn’t mean it’s bad after you know it doesn’t say bad after this day it’s his best before and it is generally you know when food manufacturers put that date on they believe that this is how long it’s gonna you know have the best before but we as humans have evolved over millennia to be able to detect if food is bad or not if it’s spoiled the sniff test the sniff test exactly and looking at it and smelling it and say you know this is best before yesterday but i’m going to take a look at it today you know what the milk’s not spoiled it’s not sour it’s still good and i think it’s important not just look at that date if it has an expired date on it like billy baby food we’ll have it expired that’s different it’s expired but at best before doesn’t mean it’s bad after we still have the ability to detect if it’s good or bad and you know i think that’s one of the misconceptions out there you know let’s use what we’ve developed or sniff test and eyesight and that sort of thing and touch and feel to know that whatever food it is is still good i’m also thinking about this moment i know in my own life and basically everybody i know is that they have definitely spent more on groceries that they bought more groceries especially during the pandemic and that makes sense you know we’re cooking more at home we’re making fewer trips so those trips are generally bigger we’re buying more things and that’s true in your survey too that most canadians are buying more food than they normally would is this a particularly maybe urgent time then to remind people that you know even though you’re buying all this food like be aware be cognizant of just how much you’re actually using and especially in the summer it looks great all the produce but we need to be aware of that exactly you know certainly pandemic has changed a lot of how we carry on our lives and you know unfortunately it hasn’t had an effect on the food service industry restaurants have had to close or reduce their hours reduce their seating and people have been cooking at home a lot more so on one hand there’s something good that’s come out of it people are learning to cook they’re learning to bake and they’re learning to you know use the food at home and i know post pandemic as we’re emerging from this people are going to go back to restaurants and they’ll be buying a little bit less but i think that has had an effect on what we do a lot of it’s been a huge interest in baking and cooking and that’s evident all over so that’s one of the i’d say one of the good things that has come out of it one of the bad things is that perhaps you know we’re buying too much we make fewer trips you know leaving at home do you want to be out as much leaving fewer trips or you’re buying more and then getting it home and not storing it properly and so it leads to waste more waste so you know there’s a double-edged sword on one hand we’re learning how to cook and bake i know i’ve taken up that hobby and quite enjoyed my sourdough breads but it’s can’t find yeast anywhere now no i know that was a difficult thing but you know so it’s created that but on the other hand it may have caused us to purchase more especially in the beginning of the pandemic there’s a lot more of that people not wanting to get out as much but now as we’re starting to emerge i think that’ll change back we’ll go back to our old habits well i mean there’s no time like the present to get started on this for anybody who’s listening what is one identifiable thing what’s one tangible thing that they can do today as they’re listening to this to cut back on their habits or change their behaviors what would you recommend like i say it starts with us one simple thing when you go to the store buy what you need really think about what you’re buying you know do you really need to buy all of that or if you’re gonna buy you know two dozen bananas do you need two dozen bananas and have you know five of them go bad on you and i think that’s one simple thing we’re in the grocery stores all the time we’re out buying food all the time it’s by what you’re going to use and store it properly i think that’s the biggest thing we can do is don’t buy but we’re not going to use jack it’s great talking to you thank you so much for your time yeah thank you it’s been great chatting with you about this thank you and that is jack freeze chair of the national zero waste council that’s it for today thanks for listening this matters is hosted and produced by me adrian chung saba aitazaz and raju mudhar produced and mixed by sean patton and her director of programming is jp foso our show theme music is by so-called and our episode music is by mike deangelis we want to hear what stories matter to you please send us comments questions or ideas to this matters at the start.ca please consider supporting the journalism the toronto star newsroom does at the star.com and don’t forget to subscribe to this matters on apple podcast spotify or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast let’s talk soon
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Canada’s $31-billion food waste problem

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