Food is a great source of sustenance and the world is believed to produce about 4 billion metric tonnes per annum. A shocking fact is that approximately 30-50% of the entire food produced fails to get to a human stomach.
Four Touchpoints in food wastage
Food waste occurs at different phases in the production and consumption journey. The four stages for which food wastage occurs are poor techniques in harvesting, transportation, storage and consumer wastage.
Meeting Food waste where it happens
A study carried out by the institution of mechanical engineers revealed different scenarios where food waste occurs. Each population group has its unique activities that contribute to food waste.
- Fully developed/post-industrial societies: In mature economies, where there are efficient farming techniques, proper storage and adequate processing facilities, food in most cases reach the consumer or market. In this scenario or economy, a higher proportion of food wastage is as a result of retail and consumer behaviour. Families in the UK, for example, are believed to be wasting or chucking about 24 meals a month. The food waste in the United Kingdom alone adds up to about 4.2 million tonnes a year.
- Late-stage developing countries: Nations that are currently on the industrialization journey like China are experiencing decelerating levels of population growth and increasing wealth. These countries will also experience food wastage due to the behaviours of retailers and consumers.
- Newly developing countries: These are countries that are at an early stage of the industrialisation process. For these nations, food wastage tends to occur at every touchpoint such as techniques in harvesting, transportation, storage and consumer wastage.
Food wastage and its impact on Finite resources
The wastage of food tends to have negatively impacted upon finite resources like land, water and energy usage.
Effective Land Utilization: The institute of mechanical engineers stated that improving farming techniques would help to improve crop yields, reduce food wastage at the harvesting stage and increase the farmland utilisation by 12%.
Water Usage: Approximately 40% of the world’s food supply is believed to be realised from irrigated land. Water used for irrigation is believed to be done in an unsustainable manner. Going forward, effective washing procedures, recycling and purification is believed to help in the reduction of water wastage.
Energy Consumption: It is argued that about 7-10 calories of input are needed for the production of a calorie of food. Three calories of energy are required for plant crops and 35 for beef. In the age of industrialisation, there is a higher demand for energy in the agricultural and storage process. Energy is required for the power machinery on the farm lands, processing plants and storage units.
In the face of rising population, sophisticated nutritional standards and altering dietary requirements; food production is set to increase. While food production is expected to rise, there is a clarion call for a change in behaviour for retailers and consumers.
Globally, retailers are believed to generate about 1.6 million tonnes of food waste annually, which negatively impacts upon finite resources like water, energy and land. To get things on the right track, there has to be an improvement in the technique and behaviour at all four touchpoints like harvesting techniques, transportation, storage and consumer/retailer behaviour.
Image credit: The Guardian
The first time I heard the word anaerobic digestion, I was puzzled and my imagination vanished into the thin air. The first meaningful thought that came to mind was that this could be a unique way humans digested lasagna or peri-peri chicken. I was way off the mark as this meant something completely different. It is, therefore, important to spare you from wondering on the actual meaning of anaerobic digestion and go straight to the point.
Anaerobic digestion is viewed as the process through which organic materials such as food or animal waste are broken down to generate bio-fertiliser and biogas. The unique thing is that this entire process occurs in the absence of oxygen, as the dissolution process takes place in an oxygen-free tank known as anaerobic digesters.
You might be pondering what the word anaerobic stands for or actually means. Anaerobic simply means ‘in the absence of oxygen.’ The irony is that we need oxygen to survive whilst anaerobic digestion takes place in the absence of oxygen.
The benefits of anaerobic digestion:
Anaerobic digestion are considered to be among the oldest biological technologies adopted by the human race. It is believed that high organic loading rates and low sludge creation are common benefits for using anaerobic digesters.
An increasing benefit for adopting an anaerobic digestive process is that of energy production. This, therefore, leads to a positive net energy production and more interestingly, the biogas produced can replace fossil fuels. The production of biogas has a direct positive effect on the reduction of greenhouse gas reduction.
Also, the biogas which is produced in the sealed tanks are useful as fuels in a combined heat and power unit (CHP), to produce renewable energy like electricity and heat. This does not end here as the process further generates a nutrient rich bio-fertiliser which could be pasteurised to kill any form of pathogens. These are then stored in massive sealed tanks and they can then be applied twice a year on farmlands in place of fertilizers.
Aside the above mentioned, other benefits of the anaerobic process consist of insect elimination at the storage pit, odours suppression and organic waste processing.
An important statistics to remember:
It is believed that every tonne of food waste recycled by an anaerobic digester serves as a substitute to landfill prevents between 0.5 and 1.5 tonne of CO2 entering the atmosphere.
Based on the above benefits of anaerobic digestion, you would agree that it is a very useful waste management process. Cleaning these anaerobic digesters are quite important in achieving a high level of biogas and bio-fertiliser. Hydro Cleansing is a leading firm capable of cleaning anaerobic digesters and could be contacted on 0800 740 8888.
Image credit: Wikipedia
By now most of us will be aware that the Earth has finite resources of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas; but how much thought have you given to our finite supply of water? We’re always being urged to recycle, and told of greener energy sources like wind and water, but how much water can we really spare for the generation of electricity?
Our planet has a limited amount of water, which is constantly being used, cleaned, and recycled, but it is also being increasingly polluted, rendering it unusable in some cases. There’s a total of around 1386 million cubic kilometres of water available on Earth, but only 10.7 million cubic kilometres of that is fresh water. Of the 7 billion people estimated to live on Earth, around 1.5 billion lack access to clean, safe water.
As you can see, our supply of water is greatly limited, and as the world’s population continues to grow, the situation is only going to get more extreme. To make matters worse, humankind is actively polluting the water supply every day via industrial waste disposal, rubbish disposal, and oil spills. According to statistics, around 10,000 children under the age of five die each day in Third World countries as a result of water-borne diseases; and freshwater animals are disappearing five times faster than land-based animals.
Saving the drops
There are more than 9,000 waste water treatment plants in the UK, treating over 11 billion litres of waste water each day. The infographic below explains a bit more about the world’s current water situation, but there are plenty of ways that you can help to reduce the amount of waste water:
- Don’t flush the toilet every time, only flush when you really have to.
- Use a cistern displacement device in your toilet to reduce the volume of water per flush.
- Make sure the dishwasher is full before you switch it on, or just wash up in the sink instead.
- Don’t leave the tap running while you brush your teeth, just turn it on to rinse at the end.
- Make sure your washing machine is full, or use the ‘half load’ function if it has one.
- Collect rainwater in your garden and use it to water your plants or wash your car.
- Take showers instead of baths, and be as quick as you can.