Image credit: Florian, used under Creative Commons license.
Lloyd has already covered the astounding carbon and water footprint of waste food, and some research even suggests that half of all food produced worldwide goes uneaten! But just in case you weren't quite convinced that waste food is a real problem with real consequences, a new study is highlighting a somewhat less talked about consequence of discarded food—the waste of water used to grow it. In fact, if researchers are to be believed, uneaten food accounts for more waste water than we use for washing and drinking combined!Fiona Harvey over at The Guardian writes about a new report from the UK government's Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) which outlines the water and carbon impacts associated with waste food. While the economic impacts of wasted food have long been known, and problems with methane emissions and leaching from landfills are hardly new, Harvey suggests that more emphasis should be placed on the hidden costs of all those nutrients going to landfill:
new research shows that we throw away, on average, twice as much water per year in the form of uneaten food as we use for washing and drinking. What is worse, increasing amounts of our food comes from countries where water is scarce, meaning the food we discard has a huge hidden impact on the depletion of valuable water resources across the world.
According to the first comprehensive study into the impact of the "embedded water" in the UK's food waste on world water supplies, more than a 5% of the water used by the UK is thrown away in the form of uneaten food.
Besides reemphasizing the need to tackle waste by both promoting composting and/or organic waste-to-energy solutions, and maybe even wasting less food in the first place (hey, I'm an optimist!), the neat thing about framing the problem in these terms is that it reminds us once again that no sustainability issue can be tackled in isolation. Yes, we need to stop waste food on our farms, in our warehouses, in our stores, our businesses and institutions, and in our homes. But we also need to tackle the environmental footprint of how that food was grown in the process.
Thanks again to WRAP for one more reminder why that is so.