Food Waste: Fingertip Power.


The problem of food waste is world-wide and therefore requires a global solution. Food waste is an issue that should concern everyone. Yet, nothing gets done, why? The most powerful people in the world have talked about it: the G8, the leaders from the top 8 nations in the world, met in Hokkaido, Japan (2008) the UN has talked about it and written reams of reports, the European Union (EU) has talked about it and had reports written. So all the big guys who are supposed to give us direction have talked but crucially have not involved us. Therein lies the missing link, YOU!

In the USA, food being tossed away costs around $165bn and the situation is getting

Buddy can you spare a dime?

Buddy can you spare a dime?

worse. It is hard to figure but in America 80% of water use goes into food production. These numbers might seem incredible and they are because they don’t need to be, much of it is waste. However, the sting in the tail is the 35 million tonnes that end up in landfill which produces 23% of the methane gas emissions of the country.

However, the USA is not the sole culprit, food waste is found everywhere. In South Africa, it is estimated that 10% of annual food sales is wasted. This amounts to a staggering 1.4 million tonnes the equivalent of $2.7bn or R21.7 billion rand.(science direct) While the UN reports that post-harvest technologies could significantly increase food supply in sub-Sahara Africa which the UN suggest costs $4bn and that the grain loss could feed 48 million people. Is it not just too staggering to take in that we could and actually should be feeding FORTY-EIGHT million but don’t because of waste! /

In India with a population of 1.2 billion and where millions are living below the poverty line and unknown numbers are dying of starvation produces enough food to feed all of their people. Food prices are rising steeply in the country and yet 1/3 of fresh crops are wasted. The main reason is poor organisation, a lack of storage facilities and poor quality distribution. India is brimming with talented people and yet little or no progress on food waste. I find it completely bizarre that a nation that has the technology to potentially send a rocket to Mars cannot solve the problems of storage or distribution.

One country that seems to have its act together is New Zealand where figures suggest that 60% of households do some composting. Another 10%, it is estimated have ‘worm farms’, good stuff. You might think the ‘worm’ thing does not sound too nice but it is one clear way of getting to know the eco-system and if you have little guys, teaching them how the world goes round. (Wikipedia)

Here in the UK the Government has taken action by the setting up of a number of ‘quangos’:

  • Waste and Resource Action Programme (2000)
  •    (2007)
  • War on waste in 2009 not much of a war, no one knew about it!
  • Zero waste campaign 2010. Never heard of it.

Thus the government is doing something but it’s like entering a carthorse in a formula 1 motor race.

All politicians seem to have a forte for committee meetings. Committees, committees, committees, it’s enough to make you commit Hara-Kiri! Perhaps they will listen to Lewis Carroll;

‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’

Through the Looking-Glass (1872) ch. 2

Better news comes from the government website,  where it highlights the setting up of a Strategy and Action Plan in June 2011 and the continual development of a process called Anaerobic Digestion (AD). This is a natural process which involves the absence of oxygen but with micro-organisms which degrades the waste into biogas and produces a rich fertilizer. The system of AD has been in use for 100 years breaking down sewage sludge.

According to the website AD has a number of advantages over, wind, tidal and solar power. The biogas can be stored or used for heavy goods vehicles ( HGV’s). The gas is also cheaper to produce and much quicker to put into production. A significant plus for AD is that it could deliver between 3 & 5 Terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity by 2020. Of course I don’t have a clue how much power this amounts to or the number of homes it could potentially light and heat or for how long. What I do know is that it equals 1 trillion watts and that seems a lot. Any help out there?

The downside is that the developers hint at ‘significant barriers’ but don’t elucidate in any way. One negative is the residual water from the process which requires treatment before it is released into the watercourses.(Wikipedia) There are now 78 AD plants in operation but no indication of size or output.

The really big news about AD is that it can be established anywhere in the world. Every country can build their own, get rid of all their waste and celebrate with lots of biogas and extremely useful fertilizer. Oh, why are we waiting, why are we waiting, tell me why, oh, why, why, why, why. Sing along. Why…

‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘To talk of many things,’ (Lewis Carroll)

We need to get to it and get completely, totally, nakedly selfish: feeding the world won’t cost you a penny or a cent. Saving the planet from 1/3 methane gas won’t cost you any money either. Globally, according to the UN food waste costs $680bn for industrial nations and $310bn for developing countries; a grand total of $990 billion. Now that’s what I call waste. Add to that figure the 30% methane gas and you start to grasp just thCARUAXF6how crazy we really are.

Moreover, we contribute £ $ billions annually to charity in order to solve a mess that should not have occurred in the first place. Not all donations to charity are spent on providing food. Many animals and the environment benefit from our charitable giving. On top of all that there are significant personal savings of £680 = $1090 annually. (WRAP) Have another read of Achim Steiner’s statement: the fight to eradicate food waste is a major benefit in every aspect of our lives. We help the animals, we aid the environment and feed all so none go hungry and save billions £ $ in doing so.

It’s a win, win, win, situation. And all by being perfectly selfish: brilliant!

All of this is free to you because YOU have the fingertip power. Only YOU can make it happen.

We have seen from the number of committees that politicians have set up that they find it difficult to make a real decision; the reason is they need you. You need to tell them to get off their xxxxx and spend some money doing the positive thing. Otherwise they will just sit in committees and have lunches. A www campaign could get their bowels moving. Make it so!

I started the sequence on food waste with a snippet of a poem by Dylan Thomas. I’ll finish with a poem written by Thomas, before his 16th birthday. In effect a child wrote this many, many years ago.


My tears are like the quiet drift

Of petals from some magic rose;

And all my grief flows from the rift

Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touch the earth,

It would crumble;

It is so sad and beautiful,

So tremulously like a dream.

Dylan Thomas The Poems, by Daniel Jones

I can recommend: The ploughman’s gone.

There is so much good can be done by ending the scandal of food waste.