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From supermarket to trash can: Massive food waste in Denmark

Thousands of tons of edible food end up being carted away by the garbage disposal men

237,000 tons, (think about it!), 237,000 tons of meat, pasta, sauce and a whole lot of other stuff, directly into the trash.

Each Danish resident chucks out 42 kilos of edible food a year.

An average Danish household (mom, dad, and two children) gets rid of – among others – dinner leftovers, old potatoes, the last sliced bread portion, and black, unappealing bananas, all worth an estimated DKK 10,000.

Why the waste

The figures are according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen).

The fewer people that live at home, the worse it gets: For them, a dramatic 98.8 kg a year if you’re single – corresponding to around DKK 2,500 – gets tossed into the bin.

Yet, most research overlooks the ‘whys’ of this waste.

Food … will … spoil

»There’s nothing more sad for a western consumer than to go to a supermarket and find it empty, and then you stop going there, because you can’t get what you want,« says Mickey Gjerris, an associate professor at the Consumption, Health and Ethics Unit of the University of Copenhagen.

»We don’t wonder: what do I already have that I can eat? But: What do I want to eat?«

But if what we had yesterday isn’t what we want today, at some point it will spoil, he argues.

Children don’t learn

But who doesn’t remember grandma’s obsession with leftovers?

»That’s knowledge from a past generation, that is leaving us at a fast rate,« he adds.

»In cooking classes at school, children are supposed to learn about food, but they really don’t get anything. There’s a lack of knowledge about food because: why spend time teaching your children about how to respect the planet by using food as efficiently as possible, when we have so much and it is so cheap?« Mickey Gjerris asks rhetorically.

Time to take a stand

Modifying throw-away food culture isn’t easy.

»Somehow we built this perverted system where we have producers that are dependent on enormous amounts of waste. If you reduce waste in Denmark by one third, you’d have to reduce production by the same amount.«

Maybe it’s time to take a stand and challenge the rule of the dustbins. But are you up for it?

Hard to say. But our guide to ‘How to stop throwing away food’ will help you to use more of the food you have, save the environment, and save money.

universitypost@adm.ku.dk

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