We’ve all been there:

Your chicken or vegetables go bad in the fridge. Or maybe you’ve cooked a bigger portion than you intended, and you know it won’t taste good again the next day.

There is a quick solution. Just throw it away. 

Now imagine that happening with billions of people around the world.

And just like that, through a mindless everyday task, you have all contributed to one of the biggest problems in the world: food waste.

But how big of a problem is it? Is it as simple as people throwing food in the garbage?

We’ll cover all things related to food waste in this article. Read on to learn more about:

  • What is Food Waste and Food Loss (With Examples)
  • Why Food Waste is a Problem (15+ Food Waste Statistics)
  • What Are the Causes of Food Waste?
  • How You Can Help to Reduce Food Waste

What is Food Waste and Food Loss (With Examples)

Food waste is essentially food that was produced or harvested for consumption but is instead thrown away.

When food spoils or expires, it’s not suitable for consumption anymore and gets thrown away. That’s food loss.

So, when you go to a restaurant and don’t finish your plate, the cook will throw your food away. And that’s food waste. Whereas if your broccoli start smelling in the fridge, that’s food loss.

Although food waste management experts use two different terms, both food waste and food loss contribute to food waste.

All the inedible parts of your food, however, like leaves or shells, are not counted. This is because they don’t fit the definition of food waste as “intended for consumption”. 

We should note here that both waste and loss happen throughout the entire supply chain. So, there can be waste from the farmer, the restaurant that’s cooking your food, or the grocery store. 

The waste that comes from supply chains was put in the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since restaurants, canteens, and cafes were closed, all their food inventory went to waste. Thus, they contributed to the creation of already huge mountains of wasted food.

food waste mountain
A food waste mountain in Singapore. Source: Grand Cornett

Why Food Waste is a Problem (10+ Food Waste Statistics)

Now that we’ve touched base on what food waste is, let’s discuss how it is harmful.

You may be aware of some of the negative effects of food landfills in terms of space use, but the issues run deeper than you think.

Two of the biggest concerns associated with food waste are CO2 emissions and water waste.

Food Waste Causes Carbon Emissions

Each kilogram of waste contributes to the release of 2.5 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. And globally, we throw away around 1.3 billion tons of food every year. That’s one-third of the world’s entire food production.

If you’re numerically-savvy, you’ve probably done the math: that’s 3.25 billion tones of CO2 emissions per year. By comparison, the CO2 released from all air conditioning devices around the world amounts to 2 billion tons per year

Food Waste Leads to Water Waste and Ethical Concerns

As for water waste, 1.3 billion tons of wasted food leads to 45 trillion gallons of water being lost every year. Water is used throughout the entirety of the food production cycle, and when we throw food away, we also waste the water used to produce it.

Beyond the environmental and economic implications, wasting food can also be regarded as immoral. That’s because about 8.9% of the world’s population is hungry or malnourished. Parts of the food we are wasting can go to the 135 million people suffering from acute hunger.

Food Waste is a Priority for Sustainable Development Goals

Here are some other mind-blowing statistics:

  • The water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva.
  • 28% of the world’s agricultural land produces food that is wasted or lost.
  • The economic impact of food waste is calculated at about 750 billion USD per year.
  • In 2020 alone, we have already wasted around 892 million tonnes of food.

The problem is so big that the United Nations set a waste reduction goal as part of their Sustainable Development Goals. The objective is to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030«.

What Are the Causes of Food Waste?

As we’ve already mentioned, some of the food is wasted before it ever reaches you. 

Food waste across the supply chain is more prominent in underdeveloped countries. Whereas in developed countries, most of the waste happens at the retailer and consumer level.

Let’s look more in-depth at some of these different causes.

#1 – Never being harvested

25% of a farmer’s produce is left to rot in the field. This is mainly due to imperfections in the production process. 

Consumers and retailers have become increasingly picky about the quality and look of their fruits and vegetables. So, if the product has some imperfections, farmers tend to disregard it completely and let it rot in the fields. 

Source: The Asian Age

A decrease in demand can also lead to food never leaving the farm. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, led to a huge drop in demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, both by consumers and grocery stores and restaurants. 

So farmers had to let their produce go and not harvest it, leading to tons of wasted food.

#2 – Damaged on the road

Transporting food is harder and more difficult to do than you think. Refrigeration units and big freezers are put in place. But sometimes taking food from point A to point B can damage it in various ways:

  • Refrigeration units can break or deregulate temperature on the way. With no one to check on their status, they can quickly spoil.
  • Food can smash into each other or when transported through a bumpy road. This can lead to the packaging of packed foods to break, fruit and vegetables to be damaged, and lots of food to fall out of their containers.
  • Blame the weather! If it ends up being too hot or too cold that day, food that’s not in temperature-controlled containers can end up being spoiled. 

#3 – Thrown out by inspection

Most food never goes directly to grocery stores or restaurants. It usually stops at a distribution facility. There, designated inspectors look at its quality and look for any imperfections.

Even if the food has been lucky enough to survive the long road to their destination, it is now up to facility inspectors to determine its fate if it has suffered a bit of damage.

Once the food inspectors have removed all the unlucky foods, they’ll now be put in another truck to be transported to their next destination.

#4 – Discarded by grocery stores and restaurants

During transportation from the distribution facility to the retailers or restaurants, a heap of damage can happen, which we’ve already discussed.

So, once food reaches its (almost) final destination, it’s also inspected by the grocery stores and restaurants. They throw out any potentially damaged food, which might have been unhealthy to eat, spoiled, or overripen. 

Once they’re up for sale in grocery stores, some of them might end up not being purchased by customers before their expiration dates, which leads to food loss.

The food bought by restaurants suffers a similar fate. Restaurants throw away some of the food that expires before serving to customers. And all of the customers’ unfinished meals go in the trashcan too.

#5 – Thrown away by end customers

And now we get to you. As a food purchaser and consumer, you are the end of the chain. However, don’t underestimate your impact.

Imagine that only a portion of the food makes it to your table, once it’s been filtered through the supply chain. And then you end up wasting some of that food as well.

By wasting food, you’re contributing to a large problem, which is threatening our water resources and the quality of air in our environment.

How You Can Help

By now, you should be aware of what food waste is, the scope of the problem, and who is causing it. Luckily, some companies are addressing this issue at all levels, and TotalCtrl is at the forefront of that initiative.

We have created food waste solutions for municipalities, restaurants, and for you, the consumer. 

By downloading TotalCtrl Home, you can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you produce. You get control over your food inventory, get expiration date alerts, and customized recipes based on the food you have on your fridge and your pantry.

If you want to be part of the change, head on over to the App Store or Google Play and download TotalCtrl Home for free!

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TotalCtrl AS has developed a Food Waste Prevention Software in close collaboration with dedicated and knowledgeable pilot customers within the enterprise segment such as grocery stores, food banks, municipalities and restaurants.

One of our early customers is Handleriet.no. They used TotalCtrl’s solutions to provide their customers with an online grocery store app.

The main challenges were to increase sales, digitize recipes and help customers reduce food waste. We created an online grocery store app making it easy for customers to plan, buy, and use food.

Read on to find out how we helped Handleriet.no:

  • Increased sales by 10.28%
  • Digitized 4,000 recipes 
  • Reduced food waste

App Features and Functionality

The software simplified customers’ everyday lives, made it easy for them to reduce food waste and purchase products from Handleriet.no stores.

The app featured:

  • Store offers
  • Products from the online store
  • A scanning feature
  • Expiration date notifications
  • Digital recipe bank with over 4,000 recipes
  • Recipes connected to inventory
  • Expiration date notifications
  • Digital inventory control

Customers scan or enter food items and expiration dates of what’s in their kitchen. They receive notifications and recipe suggestions for food that is about to expire.

Benefits of the TotalCtrl Online Grocery App Solution

«We experience TotalCtrl as an extremely innovative technology solution. In just 4 months we’ve seen a 5% increase in sales through our app. We are looking forward to continuing the good cooperation!”

Roy Snapa
CEO, Handleriet.no

Increase in Sales

The average shopping cart before TotalCtrl was 1,100 NOK. After TotalCtrl, the average shopping cart was 1,219 NOK.

That’s a 10.82% increase in sales.

Digitized Recipes

Handleriet had around 300 recipes that they wanted to digitize. Their goal was to make sure they could help their customers buy products via recipes and get suggestions on recipes based on inventory. We digitized Handleriet.no’s recipes and added an additional 3,600 recipes.

The app featured a total of 4,000 recipes.

Reduced Food Waste

Handleriet’s app users:

  • created recurring shopping lists and quickly ordered items they regularly consumed
  • viewed all the items they purchased through the app and entered expiration dates for those items
  • received notifications before the products’ expiration date
  • created recipes based on the food they had at home

Stop Losing Time and Money on Food Waste

From a simple tool to a revolutionary technology: our solution is ranked as one of the world’s most innovative by Retail Insider. And we’ve been named one of Europe’s most inspiring food waste changemakers by the European Food Waste Innovation Network.

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Did you know that the food wasted in the world could feed the 800 million people who are starving worldwide TWICE? 

In 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) presented some data and we could see that some food categories were wasted more than others. 

Let’s take a look at the top 5 categories that are most wasted: 

1. Potatoes and other root vegetables

2. Fruits and vegetables

3. Seafood 

4. Bread and rice 

5. Lentils and peas 

To address this moral issue of food waste, we have decided to present some food hacks and ways to use them that you can use to keep it longer and get more out of these ingredients. 

 

1. Potatoes, beets, radish, and carrots:

Root vegetables should be stored in wire mesh or natural fiber baskets at room temperature. Store potatoes in ventilated baskets or metal bins, or even a sturdy cardboard box holes poked in the sides. Make sure the container is covered with newspaper or cardboard so no light can penetrate. If they are close to expiry date; spice them up and roast them! Mashed potatoes are popular if you put enough butter in the mash (;D) 

 

2. Fruits and vegetables: 

  • Do not store fruits and vegetables together: Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables.
  • For vegetables: Before storing, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. The bag you store the veggies in should have some holes punctured for good airflow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot. 
  • For fruits: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen on a countertop, while items like bell peppers, grapes, all citrus, and berries should be refrigerated. Bananas ripen very quickly and will speed the ripening next to other fruits.

Fruit can be cut up and frozen (this way they will last longer) and you can make smoothies of them whenever you need them. Pickled vegetables last longer and are very delicious. 

 

3. Seafood:

  • The fish should be almost odorless, at most have a hint of the sea or iodine. The older a fish, the fishier it smells.
  • A shiny, firm and elastic surface appearance is a sign of freshness.
  • Press down firmly on the skin with your index finger. Fresh fish is firm and springs back to shape as soon as you remove your finger, leaving no indent. Flatfish species should not flop when picked up.
  • Fish should be stored in ice and not on the ice so that it is evenly cooled.

Storing the fish and seafood at the right temperature is half the battle, and most of the seafood is defrosted best slowly in a refrigerator. If the fish is cooked and then you want to reheat it slowly and add ingredients as you do it. Tacos, paella, tostadas, and pasta are all recipes that go well with fish. Is that water running in your mouth yet? 🙂 

 

4. Bread and rice:

 The best way to store bread is in plastic and on the counter. Some people think that putting it in the fridge will make it stay crisp longer, but that is the opposite – it helps the process along. Freeze the bread if you need to store it for longer and take it out for 1 hour or so before you eat and it will be as if you just bought it (I said as if). If the bread becomes stale and about to go bad, then you can either make croutons, toast it, or make some delicious melted cheese sandwiches. 

As for rice it is properly stored if it is at a cooled and dry place and the less humidity the better. Cooked rice should be cooled down quickly and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days but longer than this then it should be stored in the freezer. Frozen rice can be stored for months and the best way to use leftover rice is to fry it with whatever you desire.  

 

5. Lentils and peas:

Lentils and peas should be stored in a dry and cool place and can be stored indefinitely if not cooked. After it has been cooked it should have the same storing conditions as rice. It can be in the fridge for 3-5 days and many months in the freezer. 

Lentils and peas leftovers are very easy to use and you just have to use your imagination. Wraps, soups, fritters, and veggie burgers. There are plenty of recipes out there and you’ll just have to find one that matches your taste buds.  

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Food waste is one of the fastest-growing problems around the world. It is relatively a small issue as compared to others but the amount of food wasted is on a large scale. It is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted globally, out of which 40 percent comes from restaurants and other food businesses.

According to the case studies held by Champions 123, investing money for reducing food waste at your restaurant can help them make more money.

Champions 123 reviewed 114 restaurants from 12 countries and they found that nearly every restaurant gets a positive return, with an average saving $7 for every $1 invested in preventing food waste at their restaurant’s kitchen.

The report also found:

In the first year, the restaurants reduced their kitchens food waste by 26 percent on average, and over 75 percent of restaurants recouped their investment. And in two years, 89 percent of restaurants recouped their investment.

Every site has its total investment below $20k.

The figure comes from small restaurants with annual sales of $400,000, all the way up to multi-million-dollar restaurants with annual sales of $17.3 million. The report explains the kinds of investments they did and how they benefited financially.

Source:  Champions 123: Business Case for Reducing

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Yes, it’s that time of the year again! No, we are not talking about the annual Christmas party or New Years, but the infamous physical inventory count! Hated by (almost) everyone but a necessary evil for the business. The time of the year where the entire inventory is counted manually and there are several reasons why we do this: 

  • For income tax reporting: many retailers are mandated by law to do this and have to report this in their tax forms. 
  • To minimize theft and loss: it’s important to keep track of inventory to spot losses or theft. If your inventory is disappearing but you can’t see that they are sold, then you need to take a look into it. 
  • To get rid of out of date products: if products are not being sold and will expire, you need to get rid of them. 
  • To evaluate specific items: if there are products that are not being sold at all, you need to evaluate if it is even necessary to have it in the store. 

 

Inventory counting is a time-consuming task and it can be costly if not done correctly. How much time spent is depending on how big the business is and how many people are involved in the counting. Some bigger businesses hire a third party to do the inventory for them to save time and money, while smaller ones do it themselves. But there are ways to make it easier and maybe even fun to do inventory count:

  • Plan: The business should be tidy and the counting products should be accessible for the staff to count. Give everyone tasks so that nothing is counted twice.
  • Train your staff: Show your employees that are partaking the inventory count how to do it and it has to be taken seriously. They need to know what to look for and what needs to be done, especially if there is any deviation. 
  • Use inventory software: To save time and money some tools and solutions can make the inventory count less time consuming and less manual. 
  • Make it fun: Yes, inventory counting may be boring, but there are ways to make it fun. Order in pizza (or anything else) to show your appreciation for the staff being there and maybe even throw an after-party when all the tasks are done. 
  • Do cycle counts: It is easier to spot theft or other reasons why products are disappearing when you do inventory count more often. The more often the staff does this, the easier and faster it will be when it is made into a routine.
  • FIFO: Implement the “first in, first out” principle when stocking and it will be easier to detect products that are expiring or have expired. 

 

These are just suggestions on how it could be done since there are no “right” ways to do this. Businesses vary from size and personnel and it is up to the managers to figure out the best way for their business. Hiring third party to do inventory is not for everyone either, because it depends on what you sell. Expensive and fragile products should be counted by qualified personnel that is trained to handle it. Although there are no right ways to do it, you can always show appreciation for the personnel by ordering food and drinks – we do work faster and more efficient when we are full and energized. 

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