5 Food Waste Myths Debunked
A whopping 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted each year – that’s 1.3 billion tons! Much of this food is wasted because of pesky little food myths that we’ve taken to be true. No one wants to waste food but these myths have distorted our perception of what is “okay” and “not okay” to eat. This wastage is a leading global issue because millions of people are struggling with food insecurity, and it is a waste of both precious natural resources and your own hard earned money. We have got to change our habits if we want to make a difference, so let’s start by squashing the top 5 most common food waste myths:
FOOD WASTE MYTH 1:
“It will decompose after I dump it”
Most people don’t think about what happens to food after they throw it away. When they do think about it, many come to the conclusion that food will disintegrate into the ground, right? Actually, that assumption is wrong and a big food waste myth!
A banana peel in a landfill will still be a banana peel in 10 years. When food waste is sent to a landfill it decomposes without air (anaerobically), and this releases methane which is a 20 TIMES more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Food waste in landfills is a huge problem that is only getting worse; it is overcrowding American landfills, with each American on average producing over 200 pounds of food waste each year. But worry not, there is a much better option for diverting your food waste…
FOOD WASTE MYTH 2:
“The only way I can recycle food waste is by composting it”
Composting is a great option for recycling food scraps, but few people have the time, space, or knowledge to successfully maintain a compost pile. Additionally, compost piles can give your backyard a funny smell and attract small animals and insects. Some cities and counties offer curbside pickup of compost, but the garbage truck routes make this process carbon intensive; moreover, the effectiveness and safety of large-scale composting facilities are still under investigation.
The truth is that composting is not your only, and definitely not your best, option! Biodigesters bring a whole new meaning to your food “waste.” Biogas appliances such as the critically-acclaimed HomeBiogas system are affordable and compact enough to fit in your backyard. With HomeBiogas, you input your leftover or expired food (and even animal manure) and within a few hours, you will have rich, organic liquid fertilizer and COOKING GAS. That’s right, HomeBiogas produces clean, renewable cooking gas for your stovetop so that you can say goodbye to dirty fossil fuels and food waste at the same time. The HomeBiogas backyard appliance is far more cleaner, quicker, and efficient than composting.
FOOD WASTE MYTH 3:
“You can’t eat food past the expiration date”
Confusion over expiration dates causes 9 out of 10 Americans to throw away good food, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute. This means that every household wastes hundreds of dollars each year!
For consumers, the ‘Use-By’ date printed on food products is considered an indication of the food’s safety… In reality, it’s not. The ‘Dating Game’ report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains that date labels have little to do with when food actually goes bad.
The NRDC states:
“All those dates on food products — sell by, use by, best before — almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe.”
The difference between these date labels, “Use By,” “Best Before,” and “Sell By” is mostly arbitrary. These labels are not actually regulated in terms of what’s safe to eat and legal to give away; very few states have a legal definition of what date labels signify. Manufacturers try to offer dates when the quality is at its peak, but “beyond its peak” is a far cry from worthless!
Even though the expiration dates look official, it is okay to eat certain foods after such dates have passed! Most likely, that carton of almond milk has not changed drastically from one day to the next. You should check it before automatically tossing it out.
When have we stopped trusting our senses? Food is a sensual experience. Its sensual traits – color, smell, taste – should play the central role when we choose what to eat. Here is a tip: visit Stilltasty.com to learn some tricks about expiration dates.
FOOD WASTE MYTH 4:
“Don’t eat deformed fruits or vegetables”
Society loves physically attractive things. For many, a large part of the enjoyment from food is from the way the food looks. It only takes 30 seconds of Instagram scrolling to grasp the role that food aesthetics play in our lives and appetites.
We have grown to expect a very high aesthetic standard for fruits and veggies in grocery stores. As a result, millions of pounds of perfectly good fruits and veggies get thrown out to landfills! It’s sad to think that some people around the world don’t have any food to eat, while others have tons of food options but don’t want to eat them because they look different.
Aren’t these strawberries beautiful? This food waste myth needs to be debunked! Irregular ‘ugly’ food tastes the same as any other food! Let’s help these awkward, lonely fruit and veggies and take them home. Try not to judge their blemishes or abnormalities so harshly!
Not convinced about embracing imperfections? Here is a case in point:
Last spring the French supermarket chain Intermarché started what it calls the Ugly Fruit Campaign to sell “inglorious fruits and vegetables” at a 30 percent discount. They offered a great opportunity to reduce food waste, by selling irregular produce at a discount. Their campaign got a lot of media buzz. More importantly, Intermarché sold 24% more produce: good for business, and great for the environment!
To refresh the way you look at produce, scroll through some ugly, borderline bizarre, but heartwarming / hilarious veggies images, on the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign page.
FOOD WASTE MYTH 5:
“The last item on the shelf is the unwanted leftover”
There is a saying in the grocery business: “Pile it high and watch it fly.” Sellers have long realized that customers don’t like buying what seem to them as “leftovers.” If there are only two bags of lettuce on the shelf, customers get suspicious. They wonder, “Maybe all the good ones are gone already?” or, “Maybe I shouldn’t buy the last product?” Because of this phenomenon, many perfectly edible fruits and vegetables don’t make the cut. Due to this consumer habit, retailers order and put on display more food than they’ll ever sell.
On one hand, the supermarket or retailer knows products go bad faster when they’re exposed to the light and air of the store floor, but on the other hand, they know how customers think and buy. Now that you’re exposed to this paradox, take it upon yourself to reach out to those shy veggies sitting alone in the corner!