Food waste and what we can do

January 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Martina Rowley

Around the world, about 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year – approximately one-third of what is produced, with 10 million tonnes of food going unharvested. The biggest culprits are Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and industrialized Asian countries. The CBC Passionate Eye documentary “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” revealed the average North American family wastes up to $1,500 worth of food every year, and Canadians waste around 180 kg of solid food per person. It is a result of buying more food than needed, forgetting about it in the fridge, and misinterpreting package labelling. Consumers are responsible for approximately 47 percent of total food waste. 

Supermarkets also hold great power over food and food waste; they decide what to buy from farms and allow on their shelves based on ‘beauty rules’ (quality standards). Tonnes of food that is grown never makes it off the farmland and is sent to landfill or turned into animal fodder. 

What’s being done: In Canada, the National Zero Waste Council ( was founded in 2013 by Metro Vancouver in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It is a leadership initiative bringing together governments, businesses and non-government organizations to advance waste prevention and cross-sector collaboration. In May 2018, the council launched A Food Loss and Waste Strategy for Canada. In 2017, Ontario’s Liberal government adopted a Food and Organic Waste Framework. 

Countries like France and Italy have implemented legislation forcing supermarkets to donate or compost unsold foods. Japan has a food waste recycling law that turns leftover produce into farm animal feed (mostly pigs). The city of Milan, Italy, has a Recup program where farmers markets at the end of market day allow people to take slightly damaged produce, preventing around 160 kg food waste every market day. Milan also signed a global commitment of 100+ cities to reduce food waste. Toronto has several food recovery programs like Second Harvest and Food Rescue, which smaller towns are also adopting. 

Locally, the Orangeville Sustainability Action Team (OSAT) has two projects on food waste. The Waste Diversion project works on reducing packaging waste, as well as food waste by ensuring organic waste from restaurants goes into the green bin and gets composted instead of going to landfill. A few local food establishments have started a green bin collection for their organic waste.

Started in summer 2018, the Orangeville Urban Harvest Program harvests unpicked fruits from trees on public land and willing private property owners. The otherwise unpicked produce was donated mostly to the local food bank, as well as two other social service agencies. In Year 1, the program salvaged 881 lbs of apples and vegetables at a total value of $2,291.  The plan for 2019 is to gather up to 1,500 lbs. The Orangeville Food Bank receives regular donations of bread, dairy, and some frozen meats from Walmart, Zehrs, and Ray’s Bakery. Eco-Caledon is also working on a food waste reduction program with its local stores. 

What you can do: 

1. Buy only what you will consume. 

2. Freeze more, e.g. breads and muffins, or cook and then freeze vegetables. 

3. Get creative with leftovers: use older vegetables in stews and stir-fries and make smoothies or a cake or muffins with fruits that aren’t perfect for eating anymore. Use all your leftover roast chicken and turkey for home-made broth, stir-fries and stews, and freeze more of the meat.

4. Inform yourself what “best before” and “consume by” dates really mean. 

5. Throw food waste in the green bin for composting or start your own compost heap or bin.

To get informed and engaged: the fledgling group Drawdown Headwaters has a mandate to work on food waste and other projects. Attend their public meeting at Mill Street library, January 24, 6:30 p.m., where presenters from local groups and organisations will share information and tips. Register with 

And the Dufferin-Caledon Climate Change Action Group are again hosting their annual Fast Forward Eco-film series with award-winning documentaries. 

On April 2, see “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” at Westside Secondary School, doors open 6:30 p.m.; film starts 7 p.m., free admission with donations appreciated. There is much each person and household can do; get informed and take personal action to avoid food waste, especially in a town and region where so many people go hungry. 

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