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What is food waste? Food waste is the food that we don't use or consume, maybe because we bought too much, the portion was too big or we don't want to eat the food left over from the day before. That means that we have more food available than we need and as a result this leads to food waste. One third of the food produced in Switzerland is lost or wasted along the food chain, that corresponds to almost 3 million tons of food per year (Food Waste en Suisse, 2021). Food waste is not only about food, it also represents a financial loss of money: on average Swiss families throw away food to the value of over 600 francs (Gaspillage alimentaire, 2021).

Food has a great impact on the environment, as much as the way we live and move. The impact becomes worse if the food is not consumed, that is because to produce a product a lot of resources are used and the wastes also pollutes the environment. The major responsibles for the environmental impact of food waste are the Households and restaurants (Food Waste en Suisse, 2021).

In Switzerland, the most polluting (and most frequently thrown away, as can be seen in the next chapter) foods are meat and dairy products. The production of meat, milk, cheese and eggs causes about half of Switzerland's food environmental impact. The other half comes from the production of all other foods and their transport, distribution and packaging. The production of one kilogram of meat, for example, consumes 5 to 20 kilograms of feed, but it also consumes a lot of water and land and consequently requires more land and energy than plant products (Mon empreinte: alimentation, 2021).

Total amound of food waste in Switzerland (FOEN, food waste, 2021)

Avoidable Food Waste

The Institute of Ecological Systems Design at ETH Z├╝rich has calculated the impact on the environment of avoidable food waste. Food waste doesn't only have an ecological impact, but also has economic consequences (all along the production and value chain) (Food waste, 2021).

In Switzerland, families generate around one million tonnes of food waste every year. The reasons of such big waste are:

  • Lack of awareness of the waste generated
  • Lack of the value of food
  • Lack of knowledge about shelf life and storage
  • Lack of knowledge about ways to make use of leftover food

The food categories with the greatest environmental impact per kilogram of avoidable food waste are: meat, coffee and cocoa beans, butter, eggs, products imported by plane, oils and fats, fish and cheese (Food waste, 2021).

Fruit, vegetable and potato losses are also environmentally significant, you might think that they don't have such an impact on the environment, but the problem lies in the fact that vegetables are the ones thrown away in larger quantities (Food waste, 2021).


Ecological damage in "Umweltbelastungs-punkten" (UBP) per Kilogramm food waste (FOEN, Food waste, 2021)

Here are some ways to prevent food waste: