Accessibility links

Why Do People Waste So Much Food?

Leftover crops are collected from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)

Leftover crops are collected from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)

Up to half of the food the world produces is never eaten. It is instead thrown away. Experts say food is wasted in both rich and poor countries, but for different reasons.

Elliot Woolley teaches about sustainable manufacturing at Loughborough University in Britain. He spoke at the Global Conference on Sustainable Manufacturing, held earlier this month in Vietnam.

Mr. Woolley says in poor countries, food is usually lost while it is still in the field or during storage and transportation. He says that is because food producers there are inefficient. These businesses are unable to operate effectively without wasting materials, time or energy. But he adds that once food is sold in developing countries, people usually eat everything they buy.

However, people in the United States and other developed countries throw away as much as half of the food they purchase. The British researcher called this custom “a disgrace.”

Elliot Woolley has created a smartphone app that he says shows users what food they have bought and when the food is about to become unsafe to eat. It also gives information on how people can combine the foods they have to make a meal. The software program is called the “Pantry App.”

Mr. Woolley said that people who used the app reduced the amount of food they wasted by a third. But this result came from a limited experiment -- users only followed their food use for a week.

Jeremy Bonvoisin is a student at the Technical University of Berlin. He attended the recent conference in Vietnam. He said one way to solve the problem of wasted food is to take steps to persuade people to stop buying so much food in the first place. He said people buy more food than they need because it is becoming less costly. They waste so much food because they bought more than they needed.

He says the new app could help those who already want to change the way they use the food they buy. But he is also worried that it could get people to waste more food because they no longer have to pay attention to how much they have bought.

I’m Bob Doughty.

Lien Hoang reported this story from Binh Duong City, Vietnam. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

sustainable – adj. involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources

disgrace – n. loss of respect; v. bringing shame or discredit on someone or something

app – n. a computer program that performs a particular task, generally on a smartphone

Show comments