#UNEA2: Why your mother was right, clear your plate

May 23, 2016 6:17 pm
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According to the US Environmental Protection Agency Global Affairs Director Walker Smith, "if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor of green house gases."/COURTESY
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency Global Affairs Director Walker Smith, “if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor of green house gases.”/COURTESY

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23 – Growing up your mother probably chided you if you left food on your plate. “Don’t you know there are children starving (somewhere in the world),” the admonition often went.

Turns out mother did really know best as food waste has now been identified as a major cause of global warming.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency Global Affairs Director Walker Smith, “if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor of green house gases.”

“Food wasted is an area which has only recently been recognised as an environmental problem. It’s obviously been recognised for a long time as it’s a problem to waste food when people go hungry when 1 in 9 people in the world are suffering from food insecurity. But it’s also an environmental problem. FAO has estimated that one-third of all food that is produced is wasted. And this is an even bigger problem when you realise that food waste is a major contributor to global warming,” she said at a United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) media briefing on Monday.

The US, she said, planned to half their food waste by 2030 and encouraged other countries to follow suit through responsible waste management. “A lot of those emissions are coming from methane and from landfills.”

The focus has largely been on non-biodegradable waste but recent innovations include apps that track the sell-by dates of produce on supermarket shelves to minimise waste by enabling consumers purchase them at a discount as opposed to having them tossed-out in a win-win type model that also spares retailers from disposing of the produce at a complete loss.

And there is of course the more ‘old-school’ approach of converting the food waste into bio-gas.

Back to the dinner table, using smaller plates not only guards against overeating but food waste as well as, “the eyes are bigger than the stomach,” our mothers used to say.

Food has increasingly become a focus for environmentalists who now also track the carbon emitted in its production with red meat having been identified as a serious offender.

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