A new national campaign launching this summer in Canada aims to reduce the vast volume of food waste generated by Canadian households.
The Love Food Hate Waste campaign is dedicated to reducing the significant amounts of food thrown out daily in households right across the country, said Malcolm Brodie, chair of the National Zero Waste Council, a group organized in 2013 in B.C. in a partnership with Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
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Canadians’ dubious reputation for throwing out tons of perfectly edible food is becoming more widely recognized but there hasn’t been enough attention put on it, nor focus on changing behaviours around food, said Brodie.
Canadians are among the worst of the developed nations in wasting food, with about 47 per cent occurring in the home. Over 60 per cent of the food thrown out is nutritious and with nothing wrong. The cost of all the thrown-out food to the average Canadian household is more than $1,100 per year.
Overall it amounts to 2.2 million tonnes of food wasted every year. That’s rotting food that ends up in landfills generating methane and contributing to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. All the land, water and inputs that went into producing, distributing and merchandising that food is wasted.
Canada “desperately needs” to put concerted effort into reducing food waste, Brodie said, adding the statistics are becoming more widely known but scant attention has been put towards addressing consumer behaviour.
“It really is offensive that we’ve adopted such bad habits in relation to food,” Brodie said. “The amount of food we’re wasting and the damage that causes to the environment and financially is very significant.”
Retailers on board
The LFHW campaign’s focus is on households and consumers in a first-ever co-ordinated national approach to help Canadians change their relationship with food.
“It only takes a small change, such as buying only what we need so food doesn’t spoil or get forgotten in the back of the fridge and is then thrown out,” Brodie said.
The campaign will also offer practical and easy tips for keeping and storing fresh food, using up existing ingredients and better planning to avoid overpurchasing food.
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The campaign now involves nine large urban centres as partners, including the cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, the Capital Regional District, Metro Vancouver, Province of B.C. and a group called RECYC-QUÉBEC.
Walmart Canada and Sobeys are also supporting the campaign.
Walmart has its own zero-food waste goals within its own operations by 2025, Lee Tappenden, Walmart Canada president and CEO said in a news release.
“By partnering with the National Zero Waste Council on the Love Food Hate Waste campaign we hope to champion and inspire more change and action that will significantly reduce food waste in Canada.”
The grocery stores are key sites to talk with consumers about food behaviours, better food-related habits, including knowing how to store purchased food, buying what you know you’ll use, and most importantly, meal planning so unnecessary food purchases are avoided.
This isn’t about buying less food, but making purchases more strategically, he said.
In the United Kingdom where similar campaigns have been underway has cut avoidable household food waste by 21 per cent, saving U.K. consumers 13 billion pounds, he said.
Addressing ‘best before’
The National Zero Waste Council has also released its Food Loss and Waste Strategy, a broader initiative which focuses on the need to change consumer behaviour and reduce food waste in the production and distribution systems — where the other half of Canada’s food waste occurs.
That strategy also calls for an overhaul of food labelling laws in order to alleviate confusion over ‘best before’ dates, and establishes a national goal to halve food waste by 2030.
That strategy is also NZWC’s contribution to the pending Food Policy for Canada.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay, has seen the food waste strategy and has commended the leadership of the National Zero Waste Council’s efforts. Brodie said it’s hoped as the campaign gains profile more provincial governments, including local governments will also support these efforts.
Quebec’s minister of sustainable development, environment and the fight against climate change has praised the newly launched Love Food Hate Waste campaign.
“From a sustainable development perspective, we have a collective duty to reduce waste before thinking about composting, even if composting is a better option than throwing food away,” she said.