THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Headshot

Food Waste: It's Time We Do Our Part

Posted: Updated:
FOOD WASTE
CBCK-Christine via Getty Images
Print

If you are like many other Canadians, every week, two or three items go almost directly from your grocery shopping cart to the compost or garbage bin. This food waste in Canada is estimated at $31 billion, and it has serious environmental, economic and social repercussions.

Environmentally, landfills and avoidable food waste are catastrophic. They generate additional pollution and give off greenhouse gas emissions (CO₂). Decomposing organic material also releases methane, which is a very detrimental GHG, and overburdens composting centres and landfills. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), one tonne of food waste is the equivalent of 5.6 tonnes of unnecessary CO₂ emissions. Globally, food waste produces the equivalent of 3.3 gigatonnes of CO₂ and ranks as the third top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after China and the United States.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians waste 183 kg (just over 403 lbs) a year. This represents the equivalent of throwing $771 per year per consumer in the trash.

Economically, consumers and the private sector will benefit significantly from efforts to tackle food waste. For consumers, reducing food waste could help them save hundreds of dollars. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians waste 183 kg (just over 403 lbs) a year. This represents the equivalent of throwing $771 per year per consumer in the trash. In other words, over 15 per cent of a household's grocery cart ends up in the garbage without being consumed, which is approximately $50/week per family.

Preventing food waste could also cut food costs by 10 per cent or more. For businesses, the losses incurred through the supply chain exceed the combined margins of the companies involved. All groups from farm gate to plate would benefit from a collaborative approach to preventing food loss that would enable them to collectively increase their profits and save.

It is... absurd to waste so much food at a time when thousands of people throughout the country are affected by food insecurity.

Socially, while food waste and food insecurity are not intimately linked, it is nonetheless absurd to waste so much food at a time when thousands of people throughout the country are affected by food insecurity. Here are some figures:

• 852,137 Canadians use food banks every month.
• 35.8 per cent (305,366) of food bank users are children.
• In total, every year, 1.6 million households are unable to afford healthy food.
• According to 2015 data, use of food banks has gone up by 26 per cent compared to 2008, and by 1.3 per cent
• More than 3.9 million people cannot feed themselves properly
each year.

I believe that to fight food insecurity, we must create better wage conditions for our workers, and, of course, that food waste is clearly not the reason why an increasingly large number of people cannot afford food. Our system and wage conditions are to blame. That being said, nothing prevents us from tackling both problems at the same time.

Food waste is everyone's business.

Even though fighting food waste is not the main solution to the problem of food insecurity in Canada, facilitating the recovery of unsold food and donations by retailers could surely enable us to help the people who need it the most. Several initiatives across the country have shown that to be the case, like one in my riding: Moisson Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec works with supermarkets to recover unsold food, which is placed in bins and refrigerated or frozen at the store. The organization visits participating supermarkets twice a week and uses the food to help those people in need. And it achieves this while fully respecting requirements in terms of quality control, food traceability, and respect for the chain.

As you can see, food waste is everyone's business. We all stand to gain by combating this scourge. That is why I believe that the federal government must show leadership on this file, as other governments, such as France and Italy, have. For that reason, I introduced Bill C-231 calling on the government to develop a national strategy to reduce food waste in Canada and to establish a national food waste awareness day. Since 47% of food waste is attributed to consumers, this strategy will need to include a significant awareness component and to provide Canadians with tools to reduce avoidable food waste.

This bill follows up on motion M-499, which I introduced in the winter of 2014 and which was meant to be a wake-up call for parliamentarians and a way to raise awareness, stimulate debate, support existing initiatives and perhaps encourage new ones. Today, I believe that we must go even farther. We must demand that the government take concrete action to tackle this scourge. This link will take you to the content of my bill and outline the remaining steps involved. Between now and the next step, I encourage you all to familiarize yourselves with the issue of food waste.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:


Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook