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Fighting food waste


Who can say that he was not scolded during his childhood in front of a dish he didn't want to finish, in the name of "starving children on the other side of the world"? These warnings, the result of a simple but not without depth popular wisdom, perhaps still reminiscent of an era in which hunger was a scourge even in our lands, clearly express the immorality of the gesture.

Food waste is an ethical, social, economic and ecological problem 

According to the FAO, over a third of the food produced in the world is lost. Food is lost or wasted along the entire food supply chain: on the farm, during processing and processing, in shops, restaurants and in the home. Waste increases the demand for food, causing an increase in prices on the market, the consequences of which are paid for by the less developed regions of the world, where the populations do not have the economic means to cope with inflation. When we throw away food we must always reflect on the fact that we are not simply wasting what we throw away, but also all the resources used to produce and distribute that good: soil and water, energy. Not to mention the emissions of CO2, other greenhouse gases and fine particles. Furthermore, the disposal of waste itself causes environmental pollution. If the phenomenon of global food waste were a nation, it would be the third in the world for greenhouse gas emissions in the world [1]. In Italy this phenomenon involves the emission of approximately 3.4 million tons of CO2eq (i.e. approximately 0.01% of total emissions) - which reach 5 million if waste disposal is also considered - and is responsible 3% of final energy consumption [2]. The problem has assumed such dimensions that for several years now even politics has turned its attention more to these issues: in 2015 the United Nations General Assembly defined the sustainable development goals for 2030; among these, the halving of food waste per capita at the retail and consumer level. In Italian institutions, this commitment has resulted in the approval of various projects to raise awareness of the problem and the promotion of initiatives aimed at distributing food surpluses to destitute people [3].

Where does the waste occur?

According to an FAO study carried out in 2011, 22% of food waste occurs at home. A Waste Watcher survey measured that in Italy between 2018 and 2019 about 100 grams of food products were thrown away every day, for a total of 2 billion and 200 million tons in a year. In 2020 WW estimated in Italy an average weekly waste of € 4.90 per household, which brings us to a national figure of around € 6.5 billion. This figure, although disproportionate, represents progress along the path of containing this phenomenon: it certifies a decrease of about 25% compared to the 2019 Report, in which an average value of € 6.60 per week per family was found, for a total of approximately € 8.4 billion [4].

What are the causes and what are the possible solutions? 

Food is bought in excessive quantities and waits too long before consuming it; as a result, it often falls ill and must be eliminated. However, there are many small tricks that can be adopted to reverse the trend. First of all, before going shopping, it is important to check what you already have in the refrigerator and what you need, perhaps with the help of a weekly meal plan, to understand how many meals will actually be consumed at home. After doing this quick check, you should write a shopping list, in order to make targeted and necessary purchases. It is useless to stock up on food if we know we will not consume it! At the supermarket, we can choose to buy bruised fruit and vegetables, which would normally be discarded, but in reality they are very good; or we can opt for more mature products, if we know they will be consumed immediately. Another problem is that of the expiration date shown on the food packaging; this should be understood more as a promise of quality on the part of the manufacturer, than as a prescription for consumption. About 10% of food waste is generated because still perfectly edible food that has passed the expiration date is thrown away. The advice is therefore to rely heavily on smell, sight and taste after a product has passed the date indicated for consumption: if our senses do not register anything abnormal, it means that the food can still be consumed. For non-packaged foods, such as fruit and vegetables, it often happens that after a few days of staying in refrigerators, they lose their turgid and inviting appearance, and tend to oxidize or wrinkle. But that doesn't mean they're no longer edible! There are tons of recipes to reinvent these products when they are no longer fresh. In the event that we realize that the foodstuffs are no longer in a position to be consumed, we can give them a last chance: they can be used differently. For example, ground coffee can be used for a beauty peel in the shower; rancid oil can be used to treat wooden furniture exposed to atmospheric agents. There are so many ideas of this type, you just need to inquire! Much of the waste is also linked to clutter in cupboards and refrigerators. Here we should follow the example of logistics professionals, "First in, first out": the products purchased first must be moved forward, clearly visible, and be consumed before those purchased later. The products must always be kept cool, possibly in hermetically sealed containers. When we realize that we have bought or cooked too much, do not worry! You can freeze everything, then defrost if necessary and have something good available, ready in a few minutes.

A little more attention from everyone can bring about change. What are you waiting for to start?

This content was written and created in collaboration with Up2You, an innovative startup that helps people and companies to reduce their impact on the planet in a simple and fun way. By signing up for free on their platform you will be able to complete the different missions they propose. The goal is to make the everyday life of each of us more sustainable, even with small gestures. 

Find more information on the website https://www.u2y.it/

[1] Food waste increases: a plague for society and the environment, Asvis, February 2019, https://asvis.it/notizie/929-3836/aumenta-lo-spreco-alimentare-una-piaga-per - society-and-the-environment 

[2] Food losses and waste The numbers of the phenomenon, 2011, Data-waste-food.pdf (planningareineuropa.com) 

[3] Food waste, Ministry of ecological transition, 04/06/2019, https://www.minambiente.it/pagina/spreco-alimentare 

[4] Waste Watcher International Observatory, 2020, https://www.sprecozero.it/wast...

Translated by Arianna Giannino


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  • L'Autore

    Chiara Natalicchio

    Laureata con Lode in Ingegneria Meccanica Magistrale con indirizzo Smart Factory al Politecnico di Bari.
    Durante gli studi, ha partecipato a un tirocinio presso il Centro Nazionale di Ricerca a Bari, e a due esperienze internazionali: il programma Erasmus a Bilbao, in Spagna, e il programma Double Degree a Parigi, in Francia. Qui si è occupata principalmente di energia, collaborando, durante uno stage di sei mesi, al progetto di commercializzazione di una strada solare, che è diventato poi oggetto di tesi.
    Attualmente svolge uno stage in una società di gestione immobiliare, dove si occupa di gestire progetti di manutenzione, rinnovazione ed efficientamento energetico degli immobili gestiti dal Gruppo.
    La sua passione è lo sport, in tutte le sue forme: al chiuso, all’aperto, individuale, di gruppo. Dopo una lunga carriera da ginnasta, durante gli anni universitari si dedica all’allenamento delle giovani leve; da sei anni nuota in una squadra master, partecipando a competizioni regionali.
    Ama la lettura, il cinema, i viaggi e le lingue straniere.
    Da sempre sensibile a temi sociali, politici ed ecologici, nel Novembre 2020 entra nel team di Mondo Internazionale per occuparsi della redazione di articoli per l’area “Ambiente e Sviluppo” e come Policy Analyst nel gruppo MIIP.Graduated with honors in Mechanical Engineering at the Polytechnic of Bari.

    During her studies, she carried out an internship at the National Research Center in Bari, and two international experiences: the Erasmus program in Bilbao, Spain, and the Double Degree program in Paris, France. Here, she mainly dealt with energy, collaborating, during a six-month internship, on the marketing project of a solar road, which later became the subject of her thesis.
    She currently takes part in an internship at a property management company, where she manages maintenance, renovation and energy efficiency projects of the properties managed by the Group.
    Her passion is sport, in all its forms: indoors, outdoors, individually or in groups. After a long career as a gymnast, during her university years she started to train young talents; she has been swimming in a master team for six years, participating in regional competitions.
    She loves reading, travelling and studying foreign languages.
    Always sensitive to social, political and ecological issues, in November 2020 she joins the Mondo Internazionale team to write articles for the "Environment and Development" area and as a Policy Analyst in the MIIP group.

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