Stews, compost and smoothies are great alternatives to food waste

Food waste photo via  flickr

Food waste photo via flickr

Food waste is a social, environmental, and cultural issue. Many go without food, or are walking the thin line of poverty. From the Food Bank Canada website, 13% of Canadians do not have continuous access to safe, nutritious, and quality food.

Over 850,000 people use the food bank each month, and of that 850,000, one-third are under the age of 18.

In our developed country, more than 10% of our population doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. We are a country that’s proud of our beautiful landscapes and open arms, but our food insecurity is not something which we should be proud.

Canadians are some of the worst food wasters, squandering about $31 billion of food, roughly 40% of all food produced yearly in Canada. Imagine chopping almost half of your apple and throwing it out, silly right?

An April 9th CBC broadcast stated that the average Canadian wastes about 170 kg of food per year, compared to France that only wastes about 100 kg per person. France has implemented new regulations that looks to reduce that number to 20 kg/person/year, and has banned supermarkets from tossing good food. Canada’s food wastage is staggering, because we have the luxury of tossing that slightly wilted salad, or that bruised peach.

So much of that food could be used for compost, in smoothies, or a hearty stew. We have made some steps forward, like the Naturally Imperfect campaign which puts the “ugly” fruit back on the shelf through Loblaws and the No Name brand.

There are easy things to do personally, like sticking to a shopping list, planning meals ahead of time, and donating food that you might not use before the expiry date. But the problem is much bigger than the amount the average Canadian wastes.

Restaurants and grocery stores are huge culprits of this food waste plague. I know first hand from working in a grocery store that the waste is shocking.

Perfectly good breads and juices are tossed because they expired that day. Freeganism, the lifestyle of getting your food from alternative sources, mainly dumpster diving, is actually a good source of food considering how much perfectly good, but legally unsellable, food is thrown out. Expiry dates are not standardized. It is up to the manufacturer, or retailer, based on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Better practice could reduce waste. A full legal overhaul could be in the future, for now, there are organizations out there reducing waste their own way.

Recycling food waste from restaurants is a great way to reduce carbon emissions, and recycle quality resources which is what the Calgary born Hop Compost is doing. Founded in 2014, Hop Compost diverts wasted food from restaurants and groceries, towards high quality, organic compost for human use. The facility is within the city, reducing the need to truck the waste out, further reducing emissions.

Before Hop Compost, much of the organic waste had to be hauled out to rural processing centres, but with Hop’s composter, it can be made within city limits due to its odour, methane, and leachate-free processing. Hop Compost has branched out, opening a facility in Vancouver and Toronto.

Between the two facilities in Calgary and Vancouver, nearly one million kilograms of food waste is processed each year, using “less energy than required to run a commercial refrigerator”. On the Hop Compost website they have a counter, continuously measuring the litres of water, cubic feet of land, and CO2 emissions saved since Hop Compost started.

While I was writing this, they were at 3,927,502 litres of water, 503,930 cubic feet of land, and 40,945,878 pounds of CO2. ...make that 40,945,950 pounds of CO2 and counting. The company is more geared towards smaller production batches, focusing on personal, urban gardening, rather than large industries.

When you buy Hop compost, you are buying Canadian, sometimes local, quality compost that is closing the food waste loop.

Sarina Clay-Smith