Food loss and waste
Globally, there is growing consensus that we need to take action to address food loss and waste. Food that is produced but not eaten ends up in landfills and creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
When food is wasted, all the resources used to produce it are also wasted. By reducing food loss and waste in Canada, we can also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Causes of food loss and waste
There are many causes of food loss and waste. Some examples include:
- stocking too much food that spoils before it can be sold or eaten
- storage or packaging that is not able to stop food spoilage or contamination
- disposing food scraps in the garbage instead of collection bins for organic waste
Solutions for reducing food loss and waste
Everyone has a role to play in addressing food loss and waste, including businesses, consumers and governments.
This image illustrates the hierarchy of solutions to address food loss and waste. The most preferred solution is to reduce it by improving our operations and practices to reduce the amount we generate. The second best solution is to recover it by donating surplus food to people that need it or by manufacturing animal feed or other food products from it. The third best solution is to recycle it to create ingredients for products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and fertilizers, or produce biodiesel from waste oils or renewable natural gas through anaerobic digestion, or create compost from it. The least preferred solution is to dispose of it in landfills or incinerators.
Here are some ways you can help to increase the sustainability of our food system:
Reduce: Be sure to plan your meals before you shop so that you only buy what you can consume before it spoils and ends up in the garbage
Recover: Donate to food programs that help people in your community
Recycle: Participate in organic waste collection programs or start a composter in your backyard and use the Greenhouse Gas Calculator for Waste Management to estimate the reduced emissions that result
What we are doing
Canada, Mexico, and the United States are working together under the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to address food loss and waste in North America. Results from this work include:
- Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America
- Why and How to Measure Food Loss and Waste
- Food Matters Action Kit
In Canada, we are actively working to reduce food loss and waste here at home:
- Under the Strategy on Short-lived Climate Pollutants, Canada committed to consult on strategies to reduce avoidable food waste in Canada, which will help to reduce methane emissions from Canadian landfills.
- The Food Policy for Canada is a roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system for Canada. The Food Policy includes a challenge to fund the most innovative food waste reduction proposals from farm to plate. Applications are currently being accepted under the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. The food Policy also includes an initiative to support leadership by the federal government to cut its own food waste.
- In February 2019, we brought together experts from industry, government and the not-for-profit sectors to share ideas and discuss opportunities for measuring and reducing food loss and waste across the food supply chain. Read our summary report for the workshop.
- Read our report: Taking Stock of Food Loss and Waste Reduction in Canada.
Key Canadian tools and resources to help you prevent food loss and waste are listed below.
- Government of Canada – Pollution prevention resource finder
- National Zero Waste Council – Food Loss and Waste Resources
- Waste Reduction Week Canada – Food Waste Resources
- Sustain Ontario – Food waste resources
- Recyc-Québec – Gaspillage alimentaire [available in French only]
- Recyc-Québec – Guides et études sur la gestion des matières organiques [available in French only]
For food sector businesses
- BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy – Food Waste Prevention for Businesses
- BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy – Organic Waste Diversion for Businesses
- Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks – A Guide to Waste Audits and Waste Reduction Work Plans for the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Sectors
- Provision Coalition
- BC Centre for Disease Control – Food Donation Guidelines
- Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec – Dons d'aliments [available in French only]
- Love Food Hate Waste Canada
- Alberta Health Services – Reduce food waste tip sheet
- City of Edmonton – Food waste resources
- Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council – Food waste resources
- Metro Vancouver – Food Scraps Recycling
- York Region – Good Food Program
- Sauve ta bouffe – Trucs et astuces [available in French only]
- Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec – Gaspillage alimentaire: comment l'éviter? [available in French only]
- Ville en vert – Lutte au gaspillage alimentaire [available in French only]
Waste Reduction and Management Division Environment and Climate Change Canada 351 St. Joseph, Place Vincent Massey Gatineau QC K1A 0H3
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