Reducing food surplus: A story about bread

February 22, 2019
Unsold bread or other food being thrown away may not be news to many, but it’s part of a big problem that requires discussion.

Recently, it became news to many Australians that much of their recyclable waste is not actually recycled. Instead, they’re sorted, sold and shipped to another country for processing, usually a developing country, as part of what is called the global waste trade. This is extremely concerning as it is understood by many that recycling is the go-to solution to reducing our impact on the earth. In a video about America’s recycling problem, it’s discussed that the two other R’s, reducing and reusing, are more likely to make an impact on our earth. What does that mean in context of food waste? For that, let’s talk about bread.

If you’ve been to any shop that sells baked goods, you would be familiar with the need to constantly restock freshly baked goods. Working for a bakery in the past, unsold bread was thrown out at the end of the day. Due to reasons in regard to branding and positioning, this waste was not donated nor sold cheaper to clear. (Complete nonsense, but that’s a story for another day.)

To make this bread, wheat had to be grown for about 3 months, then harvested and processed, into flour. Top it off with distribution and actual making and selling of bread, this process has consumed many resources that impact our earth. Indeed, if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest greenhouse gas polluter after the U.S. and China.

You must be thinking that the cake, croissant or muffin in your hand is exceptionally sinful right now. At least that’s being consumed.

That unsold bread? It’s taken up resources only to be thrown away.

Even at the end of its product life cycle, it will continue having an impact on the earth as food waste that’s not composted is regularly mixed with landfill waste, increasing the transportation costs of such waste both financially and environmentally. Though it’ll compose naturally underground after some time, more trash in weight equals more collection trucks.

Reduction is indeed the action that would have a greater impact on our planet. In an ideal world, vendors would be able to accurately calculate how much to stock to not have waste.

Larger scaled interventions must be implemented to reduce what’s discarded. In addition to this however, grassroots innovation initiatives like Bring Me Home, can improve the situation. This is because it is often not economically feasible for small businesses to donate or give away food surplus.

There’s no one-stop solution for the environment, but we need to start somewhere. Let’s start with what and how we eat.