Waste not, want not | The Kingston Whig-Standard

One of the things I’ve been railing against lately is the growing number of “multi-buy” pricing strategies being used by Canadian supermarkets. These strategies include reduced prices when you buy two or more items, instead of offering discounts on single items. Nobody should be penalized for the “privilege” of purchasing one item. Multi-buy pricing puts more money into supermarket cash registers while consumers are forced to either pay more for a single item or buy more than they want or need in order to get the advertised reduced price. In some cases, this means forfeiting other grocery items. Either way, the consumer loses. And the most heavily impacted are singles and those on low or fixed incomes, such as students, low-income families and pensioners. Multi-buy food-pricing strategies are known to increase food waste.

An estimated $31 billion of food is wasted every year in Canada, with that number growing annually as we continue to fall well behind world initiatives in food-waste reduction. The terrible irony is that as our food-waste issue mounts, so does the number of Canadians using food banks. Approximately 850,000 Canadians use food banks monthly. Globally, the statistics are equally grim: 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. That’s enough to feed three billion people. And yet one in nine people around the world does not have enough food to eat on a daily basis.

Why does it matter?

A policy brief by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests that close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted. It’s a staggering, colossal loss of food, money and, equally importantly, of water, since half of all water consumed globally is used to grow and process food.

Simply put, wasting food wastes water; increases food prices; increases garbage, composting, recycling and landfill costs; and pumps more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (in Canada, about 20 per cent of our total methane gas emissions come from food rotting in landfills). According to the FAO, if food waste were a country, it would be the third-biggest global contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, coming right behind China (biggest greenhouse gas producer) and the U.S., and just before India.

Who’s doing what, where?

Around the world a number of fantastic food-waste reduction initiatives have been implemented. Denmark is leading the charge. Many of the Danish initiatives were spearheaded by one woman, Selina Juul, who took on the supermarkets and ended multi-buy pricing across the nation. Juul is credited with singlehandedly reducing food waste in Denmark by 25 per cent over five years by working with supermarkets to end the unnecessary dumping of food. Many of the schemes she helped implement were incredibly simple. One of the companies she worked with, Denmark’s biggest low-cost supermarket chain, Rema 1000, put up a sign saying, “Take me, I’m single,” on bins of single bananas. The result was that Rema 1000 reduced their banana wastage by 90 per cent.

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Waste not, want not | The Kingston Whig-Standard.