Waste Not, Want Not: How the Pandemic is Affecting Food Waste in Canada

A worker dumping pre-consumer food waste at at the Enterra Feed Corporation in Langley, B.C., on March 14, 2018. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Why household food waste increased since the pandemic started

Organic food waste often ends up in the wrong bins causing food scraps to make to the landfill creating bad environmental impacts. (Courtesy: Nima Tobgay)

Due to the pandemic, Canadians are spending more time at home which means they will be making more food purchases at grocery stores and cooking more frequently than before. Here in Toronto households, fifty percent of food waste is avoidable if you include leftovers and untouched foods- foods that could've been eaten while still good, at one point. The majority of Canadians don't realize it but we generate massive amounts of food waste each year averaging up to 2.2 million tonnes of waste that costing in excess, 17 billion dollars.

Food often ends up in the compost because Canadians are buying too much food that their household can't consume before they produce meets its expiration date. With all this food, more and more of it is used in cooking leading to more leftovers at the end of dinner. What happens to leftovers-- the odds are it might be stored in the fridge at which it gets pushed back by fresh groceries purchased or it goes in the compost because it looks less appetizing to consume.

Did you Know?

Avoidable food waste adds up to over 100 kg (over 50%) of food waste generated by a household per year and fruits and vegetables are the largest portion (42%) in food waste by weight. Now more than ever reducing food waste in the household is essential when everyone is in need of it during times where the price for food is climbing and the demand for it is high.

Throughout the early stage of COVID-19, people were seen panic buying food products, water bottles and canned preservatives.

In a crisis, people may think that they will run out of certain products and goods, which causes them to buy them in large quantities. (Courtesy: Nima Tobgay)

Some carts were filled past their capacity and some were left empty as a result of most people overbuying and later storing it for the future. The problem with this is that there is no planning for food that people need instead of want.

Tips on reducing food waste at home 

Reducing food waste is achievable. That's why the city of Toronto created a Long Term Waste Management Strategy where people can learn how the city's waste is managed after it leaves their compost. In the home, there's a lot of ways around wasting food before you think it's actually garbage.

A lot of the food waste thrown out by Canadians end up in the garbage and not into the green bins. (Courtesy: Nima Tobgay)

For the most part, know what's in your fridge and cupboards. Keeping your foods sorted and stored in the right places will help ensure that it lasts longer and give you an idea of everything you have and what you may need. Next is planning ahead. Planning ahead for the following meal the next week or on the weekend helps with using up what's in your fridge. Planning also cuts down on the number of items people think they need. If there are still many leftovers or extra food in the fridge, try and use it up. For instance, fruits about to go soft can get baked into a pie or blended into a smoothie- in other words, get creative with your leftovers.

For more information...

A lot of Canadians don't realize the big impact that comes to the environment when massive amounts get wasted. If ended up in the wrong bins, it goes to the landfill where it decomposes releasing carbon emissions. To avoid this, the city of Toronto has released an app, available on desktop too called Waste Wizard. This site, allows you to type in any kind of waste whether it's organic or garbage and shows you the correct bin it should be thrown in.

With the Expert: Tips on Reducing Food Waste (Podcast by Jessica Brown)

Do you think food waste is an issue in your household? (Interviewed by Nima Tobgay)

How do you think food waste affects the environment? (Interviewed by Arif Ahmed)

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