JAM | Mar 28, 2023

Ways to reduce food waste | International Day of Zero Waste

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says that, “for many people in the world, food waste has become a habit.” People tend to buy more food than they need which leads to taking larger portions than can be consumed or food spoilage.

According to the FAO, when food is wasted, we end up wasting labour, effort, investment, and resources such as water, seeds, and animal feed that go into producing it. This also includes wasted effort in the transport and processing of food. In short, “wasting food increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change”.

Thursday (March 30) will be observed as International Day of Zero Waste and the focus is to “promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, support the societal shift towards circularity, and raise awareness about how zero-waste initiatives contribute to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

According to the United Nations (UN), “[globally], the waste sector contributes significantly to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution. Humanity generates an estimated 2.24 billion tons of municipal solid waste annually, of which only 55 per cent is managed in controlled facilities.”

Additionally, every year, around 931 million tons of food is lost or wasted and up to 14 million tons of plastic waste enters aquatic ecosystems.

Bear in mind that the plastic bottles you mindlessly throw in the gullies and rivers contributes to this figure. The food you throw out because you bought too much or refused to repurpose also contributes to the figures being reported by the UN.

Think about the food waste that you produce on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Make a conscious effort to reduce what you throw out as there are many ways in which you can easily reduce wastage without breaking much of a sweat.

So, instead of throwing away your leftovers, repurpose them and create another meal, buy only what you need, and consider composting.

Locally, Milynda Dosunmu, process development officer at the Scientific Research Council (SRC) says that Jamaicans should “rethink their actions [of food waste] and build a food bank for donating to help feed those who need it.”

She emphasises that “foods that are deemed unsuitable by farmers, customers, and businesses should not be thrown away”. Instead, they “should be given to less fortunate people such as the homeless.” She was referring to the ‘ugly foods’ which are those that are oddly shaped or have minor bruising making them unsuitable for export or sale in stores.


The observed day encourages zero-waste initiatives that can foster sound waste management as well as minimise and prevent waste. These help to address the planetary crisis, protect the environment, enhance food security, and improve human health and well-being.

In December 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution at its seventy-seventh session to proclaim March 30 as the annually observed International Day of Zero Waste. It follows other resolutions focused on waste, including “End plastic pollution: towards an internationally legally binding instrument”, adopted at the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2022.

Kitchen fruit and vegetable waste.

Promoting zero-waste initiatives through this international day can help advance all the goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 11 and 12 which address all forms of waste, including food loss and waste, natural resource extraction, as well as electronic waste.

The FAO shares that worldwide, tons of edible food gets wasted every day. Between harvest and retail alone, around 14 per cent of all food produced globally is lost. Huge quantities of food are also wasted in retail or at the consumer level.

The part of food that is lost from harvest up to, but not including, the retail level is called food loss. The part wasted at the consumer or retail level is referred to as food waste.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

“The part of food that is lost from harvest up to, but not including, the retail level is called food loss. The part wasted at the consumer or retail level is referred to as food waste. We make this distinction to address the root causes of this problem, a problem that everyone from farmers and producers to customers and shop-owners can help end,” says the FAO.

In a world where millions of people go hungry every day due to food insecurity, it is crucial to reduce food loss and waste. When we reduce waste, we respect that food is not a given for the millions of people who go hungry every day.

Here are a few practices that you can adopt to reduce food waste.


Buy ugly foods

Don’t judge food by its appearance. Oddly-shaped or bruised fruits and vegetables are often thrown away because they don’t meet arbitrary cosmetic standards. But they tend to taste the same. Consider connecting with a local farmer to get your hands on some imperfect produce. If the food is spoiled, don’t buy it. However, the mature or overripe fruits, for example could be used for smoothies, juices, desserts or even baking.

Buy only what you need

For some reason, people tend to buy way more than they need. Some of you may not like this, but you should plan your meals. Make a shopping list, stick to it, and avoid impulse buys. You will waste less food and also save money.

Understand food labelling

Did you know that there is a difference between “best before” and “use-by” dates? Sometimes, food is still safe to eat after the “best before” date. The “use-by” date is what tells you when food is no longer safe to eat. You should also check food labels for unhealthy ingredients such as trans fats or preservatives and try to avoid foods with excess sugar or salt.

Love your leftovers and use them creatively

If you don’t eat everything you make, freeze it for later or use the leftovers as an ingredient in another meal. Find ways to use rather than toss food that isn’t fresh. Your vegetable scraps and peels could be made into soup stock. Fruits that are soft work perfectly cooked in oatmeal or smoothies. You can even use stale bread to bake sweet treats. Slightly wilted vegetables are great for soups, stir-fries or smoothies.


Even vegetable peels don’t have to go to waste. Backyard composting is a great way to keep food waste out of the landfill and provide nutrition for your garden.

Read more on better food management in Jamaica at the link below:

Scientific Research Council encourages Jamaicans to practise better food management

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