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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Tai


Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Caught you red-handed...

The following article is published under the pure innocence of a young teenager and is not meant in any intention of offense. If you find any of the below content insensitive, inappropriate, or dangerous to audience members, feel free to contact us by filling in the message section via the bottom of the main page, please. Thank you.

The Scare Factor

10% of caught marine life are discarded right at sea. For the US, that equals up to $1B worth of fish.

COVID-19 has caused farm animals to be slaughtered by the thousand while milk goes right down the drain.

More than 125 billion pounds of perfectly edible food is discarded due to cosmetic standards unmet.

Studies show how on average, 17% of food served at restaurants are put to waste by customers.

Households account for almost 50% of total food wastage.

If food wastes were a country, it would rank third in greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 120 liters of water are needed to grow one single apple while more than 15,000 is needed for 1 kilogram of beef.

28% of agricultural land is put to waste.

3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted through food production and manufacturing.

The averaged 31% of foods wasted by households totaled up to about $1800 USD annually.

Caught You Red-Handed

To not waste our food – a reoccurring phrase however bombarded at us to the face of it changes nothing. Alike various other social issues we’ve discussed here on this platform, the root of this “food waste problem” lies not simply within one section of the industry, instead, every part of the process, from the primary agricultural sector of the economy to its arrival at your door plays some sort of a role in contributing to the globally applicated issue; just as so, the burden and responsibility of educating ourselves and understanding this issue must be shared by us as a community.

Root Cause

Hacking at the rotten fruits of sick trees won’t save the farm, one must dig up from the roots, tracking the problem to its corresponding starting point, for history to not be repeated. Upon the context of roots lie the primary sector, here specifically speaking of the agricultural and fishing industries, both fields that stand as the head of the food waste chain.

The fishing industry is argued to be one of the most inefficient sectors of the food production line with up to 10% of caught marine life being discarded right at sea. Oftentimes with fisherman making inaccurate predictions that lie unparalleled with market demands or following poorly thought-out plans in bringing foods back from the sea, a staggering portion of what is caught end up spoiled before actually arriving at shore; and if what’s caught meets up the quality standards of marketplaces, an overwhelming percentage doesn’t get sold and comparatively concludes to spoiling and discarding. When it comes to the United States, the fifth leading contributor to annual fish harvests, as much as 2 billion pounds of fish are discarded right at its fisheries annually, estimating to be about 1 billion USD worth of fish wasted. elaborates in this subject by explaining how this loophole in the fishing industry “throws the ocean’s ecosystem off balance” as large amounts of unnecessary killing of both target and non-target fish take place, and when thrown back at sea grows the population of scavengers that exacerbates this issue.

Similar to the operations of the fishing and agrarian industries, fragility to market disruption remain prone in food processing and manufacturing facilities; common examples of such disturbances include overproduction, the unmet standards in quality control, and technical problems in the process of fabrication. In such times of a global apocalypse brought by COVID-19, manufacturing companies and industrial organizations are not yet resilient enough to overcome the sudden fall and other volatilities in the demand for farm produce. The laid laws shutting down meat processing companies have caused animals to be slaughtered and thrown out by the thousands while tens of thousands of gallons of cow milk are being poured right down the drain.

Even as we break away from the topic of foods prone to spoilage or the context of a pandemic, the global issue of food wastage still stands due to what some may call the Miss Universe Pageant of Farm Produce. These cosmetic standards in which oftentimes sets the base of a product’s ability to make it into the market or if at all, sell, is a complete shame as regardless of its skin or funky appearances, are of a great deal, perfectly edible and nutritious. The National Resources Defense Council’s report on food waste in the United States shows how most foods of the estimated 125 to 160 billion pounds that go to waste annually have quality and nutrition standards met but are only dragged down due to minor beauty marks or external blemishes. Pivoted from morality to mortality is what’s translated from these statistics, showing how the overwhelming amount of wasted foods could make a great deal of change but has only made great damage.

Institutions and Households

Calling for large demands of food every day, mass institutions from hospitals to restaurants accumulate the burden of food waste; in fact, research conducted by Cornell University Food and Brand Lab explains how on average, diners leave 17 percent of their meal uneaten while 55 percent of this waste is left at the restaurant instead of taken out. Even so, it’s not plainly the customers that are red-handed in this crime scene; suppliers, too, are spotted among the frame. As a matter of fact, 4 to 10 percent of foods purchased by restaurants are discarded before reaching the customer while behind the scenes stands only avoidable yet irrevocable measures.

Households account for the greatest portion of food waste, attributing to almost 50% of the total calculations. Primary contributors to household food wastage include food spoilage from improper storage or pure carelessness, overpreparation on account of poor planning, mistaken discarding owing to label date confusion, and overbuying due to appealing sales and promotions. While time and again the little habits we act on are unintentional, ironic it still is that the burden of food waste could most easily be avoided but yet are overlooked.

Why We Should Care

At first glance, most of us don’t see the immense specializations and collective efforts intertwined simply to generate one single item of food. And so, when that piece of seemingly worthless food gets wasted, we tend to neglect the damages done preceding. What if I told you that if food wastes were a country, it would rank the third in greenhouse gas emissions, after the United States and China?

The environmental impacts of food waste go way beyond what one might have expected as the damage ranges across several categories, from deforestation for building agrarian land to heavy consumption of Earth’s limited supply of freshwater. Putting into perspective agriculture’s role in ecosystem damage, more than 120 liters of water is needed to grow one single apple while more than 15,000 liters are required just to get one kilogram of beef. In addition, approximately 28% of the world’s agricultural land utilized for crops and livestock are put to waste while at alarming rates, deforestation and habitat destruction deepen the scars. Not to say the least, food manufacturing and production lines are traced to emitting a staggering 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually along with the heavy expending of plastic materials which infamously ends up in landfills or polluting our oceans. All the burden not only stretches out into the extensive depths of our boundless ecosystem but is now and forever will be returning back to us.

Trying to minimize and mitigate the problem of food wastage isn’t plainly about saving the environment; obliviously wasting the precious resources we are fortunate enough to have been granted isn’t so logical in the first place. The American Journal of Agricultural Economics’ study on food wastes found that 31.9% of purchased foods by households are gone to waste while the annual costs of these wastes added up to be about $1,866 USD per household, $240 billion in total. While noted that higher-income families wasted more food than frugal households, it came to be that even families living paycheck to paycheck waste about 8% of the food bought.

What You Can Do

Sparking change always comes first from education. Helping yourself and those around you understand the world we live in and the lifestyle we act on not only helps us rationalize our intentions but at the end of the day, it is us all that benefits. Starting from the smallest of actions like minimizing food spoilage and purchasing or preparing rightsized portions, we can slowly make our way through facilitating the community through donating surplus foods, composting, and helping others make this transition. But do keep in mind, the smallest of habits could make the worst of harms. Stop ordering school lunches if it’s questionable palatability stops you from eating any at all; or if you do, whole fruits are perfectly safe to keep a few days! At last, little ripples make big waves.

For a deeper dive into this social issue, reference:

Works Cited

“About Food Waste”, Move for Hunger,, Accessed 30 August 2020.

Bandoim, Lana. “The Shocking Amount U.S. Households Wastes Every Year”, Forbes, 26 January 2020, Accessed 30 August 2020.

Depta, Laura. “Global Food Waste and it’s Environmental Impact”, Reset, September 2018, Accessed 30 August 2020.

Dobson, Miriam C., and Edmondson, Jill L. “Ugly veg: supermarkets aren’t the biggest food wasters – you are”, 14 March 2019, Accessed 30 August 2020.

“Solving the Problem of Food waste”, Friends of the Earth, Accessed 30 August 2020.

“The Problem of Food Waste”, Food Print, Accessed 30 August 2020.

“Why is Food Waste a Global Issue?”, trvst, Accessed 30 August 2020.


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