We thought we were good with food waste. Yet new research has upset the plans: between 2000 and 2017, Italy was the most wasteful country in Europe. From the milk still floating in the saucepan, to the tufts of carrots inexplicably thrown in the dustbin, to the moldy lemons because they were forgotten in a corner of the fridge.
Still, the solutions exist. Food waste must be fought on all fronts, from the organization of shopping to the recovery of leftovers.
ABC: what is food waste
Already here, the waters divide. We need to distinguish food waste from food loss.
With food loss “it refers to any food that is discarded, incinerated or otherwise disposed of along the food chain, excluding the retail level”. That is the food that is wasted before it reaches our hands (or those of food retailers or restaurants).
Food waste, on the other hand, is the waste of food in the last phase of the supply chain. It is food that is discarded because it does not conform to the standards in shape, size and color. Or food products that are approaching their expiration date or that remain unused (and therefore thrown away) in domestic kitchens and restaurants.
What we consumers can improve is food waste, the food waste that we can avoid in our homes.
Why is it so important not to waste food?
Well, first of all for ethics: how many times have your grandmothers told you "eat everything on your plate that we dreamed of a meal like this". Or: "In my day, nothing was thrown away: from old bread to soup, from sour soup to animal feed". Either way, it doesn't matter to go back to wartime times to hate food waste. Just think of how unbridled food consumption has made us forget that in some countries people die of hunger (a cliché say? Maybe, but in this case I would keep it).
If you are not interested in the ethical aspect and you are a science person, here is a fact for you: food waste is responsible for 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Let's start from the beginning, however: the entire global food production represents a quarter of global emissions. Are you there? Good. Now imagine that all the use of land, water, energy and fertilizers for that global production is nullified, literally thrown in the garbage. Final: to produce the food we throw away, there are environmental costs that we do not see, but that have impacted the environment. I want to venture (even if it's not just me): if we put food waste in the context of national emissions, Mr. Waste would be the third "country" producing emissions in the world (after China and the United States).
The solutions against food waste? They exist
• Upon purchase
Forget the 3x2, "the get 5 pay 4", "if you buy the first the second is free". If not well planned, spending can become a priori waste. So: make your shopping list before you leave the house, focus on seasonality and the short supply chain and learn the difference between "consume by" and "consume preferably by". "Use by" means that after that date, the product cannot be consumed. The "preferably" instead refers to quality: the food can be consumed even after the date on the label, but the flavor or texture may no longer be optimal. I always add, as a very personal opinion: look, smell and taste.
• In the fridge
The move to take to land food waste is called FIFO - First In First Out. No, it's not Kung Fu, but a way to finish first the foods you bought first. To put it simply: the first product to enter the fridge will be the first to come out to be eaten. Speaking of the fridge, here is another very simple tip for organizing the fridge so as not to waste absolutely anything: put things that are about to expire, so as to remind us that they exist, and leave the others behind. Even a post it that says "eat me" could be effective (but only if you live in the clouds).
Also, let's always remember how to arrange the food. Yes, in the fridge as in the cinema, there are better places and worse places. The fridge has different temperature ranges and usually, the positioning of the products follows these rules:
- in the drawers at the bottom: raw fruit and vegetables.
- or on the shelf just above (the coldest): foods that require cold, such as fish.
- on the other shelves: green light for cooked foods, dairy products and jams.
- or in the counter: foods that do not need much refrigeration, such as pickles, pickles, kombucha.
• At the restaurant
The doggy bag. Ask for it. All time. Do not be embarrassed: the choice to take home the food that we cannot finish (and which will certainly go to the garbage) is a noble gesture. No shame.
• The recipes
Why don't we draw on traditional Italian #nofoodwaste recipes? The Tuscan ribollita, the canederli, the Neapolitan pasta omelette, the cacio e ova pallotte ... And why not, we can prepare excellent anti-waste recipes by copying some hits of the moment: banana bread (to use the hyper ripe bananas, the black ones to be clear) or potato peel chips. You have to weigh it like this: everything that doesn't kill, gets fat.
Then take two healthy habits. First, turn the old bread into breadcrumbs with a simple food processor. Second, use all the vegetables: from the tufts of carrots (excellent for a vegetable pesto), to the stems and leaves of the broccoli, to the skin of the pumpkin. Everything.
• Virtuous realities (some of them)
There are many, throughout Italy: food recovery and redistribution associations, #NoSpreco children's education or food sharing.
- o Come Avanzi di popolo, an Apulian project against food waste that recovers unsold food, raises public awareness and has tested foodsharing via a web platform for the first time in Puglia.
- o Or Ricibo, the Genoese network born in 2012 that involves many city associations with the aim of responding concretely to food poverty and food waste.
- o And finally Conserve, the laboratory in the province of Lucca that reduces food waste while at the same time enhancing food from a short supply chain, transforming discarded fruit and vegetables into sweet and savory preserves.
For all the times we've left a lemon to rot
Let us repent. Because on closer inspection, wasting less food is one of the simplest actions to be more sustainable. Think about it: you just need to make a conscientious shopping list, cook all the parts of the vegetables, take home that quarter of a pizza left over. To lower that fateful 6% (global greenhouse gas emissions due to food waste), each of us can do our part. The recipe is quick: half a kilo of patience, a dose of knowledge, a pinch of attention.
Written by Silvia Moroni