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Essen against the climate crisis is different | Part 4: food waste

A third in the bin

If you want to do something good for yourself, your wallet and the environment, you should only buy as much as you really need. Every second (!) In Germany 313 kilos of edible food end up in the garbage. That corresponds to the weight of half a small car. That is 81,6 kilos per year and inhabitant, worth around 235 euros. The amount in Germany adds up to twelve (according to the consumer advice centers) to 18 million (estimate by the WWF Worldwide Fund for Nature) tons of food worth 20 billion euros. According to a calculation by the consumer centers, 480.000 semi-trailers would be needed to transport this amount. Placed in a row, this gives the route from Lisbon to St. Petersburg. The numbers in Austria.

Shopping hungry is like flirting drunk

According to the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture BMEL, two thirds of this food waste would be "avoidable". There are many reasons for this madness: farmers throw away part of their harvest because the trade, with its standards, does not buy carrots that are too crooked, potatoes that are too small and everything else possible. Dealers and wholesalers sort out expired goods, as do processors. However, according to the ministry, consumers produce most of the food waste: 52% of the total. In canteens, restaurants and delivery services (out-of-home catering), the figure is 14%, in retail four percent, in processing around 18% in agriculture, depending on the estimate, also around 14%. 

Most of the food is thrown away by private households because the best before date has passed. Like the consumer advice centers, the BMEL recommends trying the food that has expired anyway. If it smells and tastes good, you can eat it. Exception: meat and fish. 

Use leftovers

Most often fruits and vegetables are thrown away. You can cut off the bad part of an apple or tomato generously and use the rest well. Bread stays longer uncut in a clay bread pot and can be made into breadcrumbs when it is dry. Whole grain bread is healthier than gray or white bread and stays fresh for much longer. A lot can also be frozen before it goes bad. 

However, it is crucial not to buy too much. “Shopping hungry is like flirting while drunk,” it says on a postcard. If you go to the supermarket full, you buy less and, above all, less unplanned. A shopping list that you work through in the store also helps here. What is not on the list stays on the shelf.

Too good for the bin

With campaigns like “Too good for the bin”, the BMEL now also wants to curb food waste. Many initiatives are dedicated to the topic, for example foodsaver and food sharer who collect leftover food in numerous cities and distribute it to those in need. Open groups cook together at Schnibbel parties and in “people's kitchens”. The Transition townIn addition to repair cafés for joint repair of defective devices and bicycle self-help workshops, networks also offer cooking clubs. Remainder shops sell cheap groceries that the supermarkets have discarded. Tips on how to recycle what is supposed to be leftover food can be found on numerous websites. For example, the greens from carrots can be turned into delicious pesto with little effort. 

Containers instead of shopping

Restaurants, snack bars, shops, market traders and others often sell their leftovers at significantly lower prices shortly before the end of the day. It's worth asking. Apps like help with the search. Especially in big cities, some people also feed on what others have thrown away. They go "containers", So get discarded food packages from the dumpsters of the supermarkets. You shouldn't get caught doing this. In 2020, a court sentenced two students from the Munich area of ​​theft for rescuing food from the garbage in a supermarket branch. Despite numerous petitions for the legalization of containers, the legislature has the Theft paragraph 242 of the Criminal Code still not changed accordingly.

Elsewhere too, politics and legislation encourage food waste. For example, while in France supermarkets have to donate leftover goods to charitable organizations, in Germany food banks or food savers are responsible for the quality of the food they distribute. They are therefore not allowed to give away things that have expired. Numerous hygiene regulations also hinder the food rescuers. The Federal Minister of Agriculture's commitment to combating food waste does not seem credible.

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Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 1
Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 2 meat and fish
Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 3: Packaging and Transport
Essen against the climate crisis is different | Part 4: food waste

Written by Robert B Fishman

Freelance author, journalist, reporter (radio and print media), photographer, workshop trainer, moderator and tour guide

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