Better Labels = Less Food Waste

Globally, food waste contributes 8% of greenhouse gases every year. About 1 billion tons of food is wasted, costing $940 billion. 75% of this food waste is created on farms or during transportation, yet the other 25% happens on a household level. According to the article, “Better Labels, Less Food Waste: Companies Agree to Simplify ‘Use by’ Tags”, this waste is caused by confusion over date labels on the packaging. Right now, each major food company uses their own system to label food expiration or best by dates. In September 2015, the United Nations set a Sustainable Development Goal to half food waste and reduce food losses worldwide by 2030. In response, The Consumer Goods Forum and Champions called on 400 members (all of which being major food companies) to implement a new, standardized food labeling system. The new system will comprise of two date label options, one expiration date for perishable items and one food quality indicator for non-perishable items. They also called for consumer education about the meaning of the date labels through displays, the internet, and announcements. While the primary benefit of this call to action is the reduction of food waste and therefore reducing greenhouse gases, there are also economic and social benefits. Standardized food labels will increase individual and family knowledge about their food. In the United States, families will save up to $1500 on food, and the United Kingdom will save 700 euros. Companies will benefit from streamlined packaging and opportunities to show innovative leadership in battling climate change. There will be a small costs to companies to implement this agreement because of changing the words printed on packaging, employee training and consumer outreach. Yet, already 60% of the world’s 50 largest food companies have set reduction targets showing that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Food waste is a major topic of investigation for sustainable living. According to the Penn State Sustainability website, the most important action that students can take is composting food waste because it represents the highest tonnage of waste. Worldwide, reducing food waste can have a great impact on greenhouse gas emissions and the volume of landfills. Composting food waste will create organic matter that can be used as fertilizer, creating a closed loop system. A reduction in landfill volume and an increase in composting will lead to a reduction of greenhouse gases, therefore promoting sustainable goals.

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