Wasted (ZR)

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zoe_robert_dlA dispute ensued in the office when one of our colleagues emptied the fridge, throwing out all leftovers in sight—including, little did they know, someone’s lunch.

Quite rightfully upset about unnecessarily going without a meal, it is a common practice by many to discard leftovers or food as soon as it reaches its expiry date.

But food waste is a big problem. According to the European Consumer Center, a whopping one third of food for human consumption is wasted globally (around 1.3 billion tons per year). 

In Iceland alone, more than 3 billion (USD 23.6 million, EUR 14.8 million) worth of food is thrown away each year.

In a 2008 survey of approximately 500 households in Iceland conducted by Sorpa waste management company and Reykjavík City Council, around 70 percent of respondents admitted to regularly throwing away food (it would be interesting to see if any changes have occurred since the financial collapse).

Why should we care?

Not only is this an issue of concern for the environment (think about all the energy, water, land and materials that go into producing food items—and the ecological footprint of all that food, a concept which you can read more about here, here and here) but it also has the potential to negatively impact global food security. And think about all the money wasted on groceries only to be thrown in the garbage.

Consumers are not responsible for all food waste; there are other practices along the supply line such as inadequate storage and oversized portion sizes which are to blame.

But, with a little bit of planning consumers can avoid buying more than they need. And, remember, the freezer is your friend. Instead of throwing out leftovers which you don’t think you’ll eat straight away, place them in the freezer for another time.

This week is the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR). The initiative is being celebrated with 10,000 awareness-raising actions across Europe, including in Reykjavík.

The Consumers’ Association of Iceland, Sorpa, Landvernd (the Icelandic Environment Association) and the Environment Agency of Iceland are banding together to promote waste reduction in Iceland.

The European Commission has issued a new leaflet entitled ‘Stop Food Waste’ offering advice for consumers on what they can do to limit the amount of food they discard.

Here are some tips:

- Plan your shopping.

- Check the dates (though remember that some items are fine after the best before date, just don’t take it too far. A government report in the U.K. found that in a bid to save money, some consumers risked food poisoning by ignoring use-by dates).

- Check the seals and temperature of your fridge. Food should be stored between 1-5ºC (33.8ºF-41ºF).

- Store food in accordance with instructions.

- When you buy food, bring the older items in your cupboards and fridge to the front.

- Serve smaller portions of food with the option of having seconds.

- Use or freeze your leftovers.

- Compost (food for your garden).

It’s all common sense really.

Zoë Robert – zoe@icelandreview.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.