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We are what we squander

We are what we squander

By Noemi Portela Prol

Some people wander around well-known supermarket and hypermarket chains at night in search of something to salvage from what is discarded by establishments. The containers accumulate damaged food or packaged food that is about to expire but is still fit for consumption, although not for sale. Meanwhile, 800 million people go hungry in the world.

The greengrocer section of a supermarket is a good example of the waste that exists. Fruits and vegetables have to go through a selection process. The color, shape and size of the products displayed there must follow a series of quality standards imposed by the distribution chains. However, to obtain these edibles, many others have been discarded that did not meet the required requirements. The farmer knows that the fruits of his labor are not going to be bought by the market because, in turn, the consumer is carried away by appearance. The result is a useless waste of resources and food that are discarded for being too small or not having the desired tone.

Offers to buy more because it is cheaper are actually another form of everyday waste. It ends up being more expensive when the food ends up at the bottom of the garbage can. Workshops such as those offered in some municipal markets in Barcelona provided alternatives for making recipes from food scraps and reducing waste. A situation that can also be avoided with greater planning when making the purchase and a more responsible consumption.

Ignorance also makes it a common practice to throw away products in good condition. The expiration date and the best before date are two terms that are often synonymous for the bulk of the population, and yet there is an important difference between them: the danger to our health. While the first expression implies that the food begins to be harmful, the second only determines that, after that period, the indicated product begins to lose its properties but its consumption does not entail any risk to health.


Rich countries are lavish, but they are not the only culprits. Developing countries show similar losses centered on the production and collection processes due to the lack of infrastructure or technical problems, compared to the importance that the consumer acquires in places with a medium or high income. The Director General of FAO, José Antonio Graziano da Silva, estimates that 28 percent of the arable land on our planet is used to produce food that will not be consumed. The money lost by producers and the increase in prices in large stores are some of the economic consequences of this phenomenon that, according to the FAO report, causes damages of up to 750,000 million dollars a year. The environmental impact also reaches high records due to the use of water and greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere to produce food that will eventually be discarded.

17% of the world's population was hungry in 1990. A decade later the figure has dropped by five points and the percentage is expected to be cut by half in 2015. However, this goal will only be achieved in some countries and will not reflect the inequalities between some areas and others. The fact that the Food Bank has spent years collecting surplus crops and large surfaces and then distributing them among the institutions that fight against hunger only reflects, once again, the duality in which we live.

CCS Center for Solidarity Collaborations



Video: Sermon May 17, 2020: How to Squander Your Potential #2. Emmett Nazarene (January 2022).