Food waste and climate change.

Food waste and climate change.

There was a report on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, that in Britain 6.7m tonnes of food were thrown away every year. The report went on to say “most of the waste food goes into landfill sites, where it breaks down and causes greenhouse gases”. As an ecologist (I have a BSc in Ecological Science and an M. Phil. in Plant Ecology), I immediately saw the flaw in this argument, the breakdown of food waste is a natural part of the carbon cycle and is not going to have any effect on climate change.

There is a real problem with policy makes and journalists not understanding carbon emissions and climate change. It is the release of fossil carbon, mainly from burning fossil fuels, that is causing the problems with climate change. It is the transport and storage of food that is the main contribution to carbon emissions, nagging consumers and supermarkets about food waste is unlikely to achieve much in the way of reductions. A much more effective approach would be to tax fossil carbon usage and to bring in a system of limits on fossil carbon usage, such are carbon credits and carbon trading.

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One thought on “Food waste and climate change.

  1. When food waste “breaks down” in a landfill it does so anaerobically and the greenhouse gases caused include methane in about equal quantities with CO2. The reponse to this in EU has been to drive an increase in incineration of waste, to avoid CH4. A more elegant solution is to divert food waste and other organic materials from the waste before landfilling.

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