You may want to think twice before tossing out last night's leftovers.
A new study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers suggests that between 30 and 50 percent of the food produced annually goes to waste due to poor harvesting practices, consumer habits and, in developing nations, inefficient storage and transportation.
In the developed world, many food retailers adhere to strict guidelines regarding the physical characteristics of food products.
According to the study, retailers are known to reject entire crops of edible fruit and vegetables at the farm because they are oddly-shaped or slightly off-colour.
This generates an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of waste annually.
Price mark-downs can exacerbate the problem by encouraging customers to purchase more food than they will eat.
"The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering," said Dr. Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, in a statement.
"This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food."
TIPS TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE
1. Make a list and stick to it. Experts recommend taking inventory of the food items in your home before heading out to the grocery store. This can prevent duplication.
2. Re-purpose over-ripe fruits and vegetables. Over-ripe bananas make a wonderful banana bread. Fruits and veggies that are close to spoiling can be used in a smoothie, as pie filling, or as ingredients in a soup or stew.
3. Serve smaller portions. If you're still hungry, help yourself to a second serving.
4. Donate. Food banks and soup kitchens will gladly take your unwanted canned and packaged goods, provided they aren't expired.
5. Freeze your leftovers. If you don't plan on eating your leftovers right away, freeze them for another day.