11.7 Diet: Food Waste

Author: Joey Chu

ABSTRACT: Almost 2.2 million tonnes of food in Canada is wasted every year, costing Canadians over $17 billion annually. Not only does food waste contribute to economic impacts, but it also widely contributes to environmental impacts such as global warming.

Image Credit (Fig 1): (Uzea, 2014)


Food waste or food loss is defined as food that is not eaten, food that is thrown away but perfectly fine to eat, food left to spoil or sit past its expiration date, food that is not eaten through the production process to the final consumer, or food scraps that are unavoidable. In Canada, over 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable food waste are wasted each year, costing Canadians about $17 billion annually with the consumers being the largest contribution to food waste. 51% of food waste is generated from consumer households (Fig. 1), with Canadians throwing away the majority of food in the fruits and vegetables category (Uzea, 2014).

In the production and farming process, food waste or food loss is caused by overproduction, incorrect planting and crop management, inadequate harvesting and harsh grading standards for size and quality during the harvesting season. In the processing and distribution stage, food is also wasted from cold chain deficiencies, contamination, inconsistency in quality, rejection from shipments, and inappropriate storage conditions. Finally, while the food chosen at the grocery store by consumers is the most customizable and personal, food is wasted the most when consumers bring home groceries through excessive purchases, confusion over date codes, attitude toward the standards of food, and over-preparation (Uzea, 2014).

Image Credit (Fig. 2): (Abdulla, 2012)

Moreover, food waste is a significant contributor to methane gas in the atmosphere. When food waste is sent to landfills and rots, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, and accounts for 20% national methane gas emissions in Canada (Lee, 2017).

In order to reduce food waste and create a more sustainable future, the Canadian government can help Canadians address the food waste problem by educating the public about food waste and its consequences, incentivize farmers to harvest all they grow, bring excess food to food banks, implement regional food systems to prevent long-distance shipping of fresh food and establish a national food-recovery coordinator (Bloom, 2011). The average Canadian citizen can also help reduce food waste by planning meals before going to the grocery store, storing food properly to prevent spoilage, buy blemished goods from the grocery store to save money and reduce store waste, create a compost at home, and save leftovers to be eaten the next day (City of Toronto, 2020).


Abdulla, M., Martin, R. C., Gooch, M., & Jovel, E. (2012). The importance of quantifying food waste in Canada. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 3(2), 137. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/34c6/a5c05f080c57d3dbe619d4d30240885ea783.pdf?_ga=2.105210624.2060122086.1651803521-624706481.1642553396

Bloom, J. (2011). American wasteland: how America throws away nearly half of its food (and what we can do about it). Lifelong Books/Da Capo Press.

City of Toronto. (2020, October 26). Food waste. https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/recycling-organics-garbage/long-term-waste-strategy/waste-reduction/food-waste/#%3A~%3Atext%3DAccording%20to%20the%20National%20Zero%2Cwaste%20has%20substantial%20environmental%20impacts

Lee, P. (2017, October 27). Reducing landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions with better biotechnology. BioZone. https://www.biozone.utoronto.ca/news/reducing-landfill-waste-greenhouse-gas- emissions-better-biotechnology/  

Uzea, N., Gooch, M., Sparling, D., & Provision Coalition. (2014). Developing an industry led approach to addressing food waste in Canada. Provision Coalition. https://provisioncoalition.com/Assets/website/PDFs/Provision-Addressing-Food-Waste-In-Canada-EN.pdf


Joey Chu is in her 3rd year of interior design at Ryerson University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Her passion is to raise awareness for sustainable living and taking the first step towards a sustainable future.

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