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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • The job of uncovering the global food waste scandal

  • started for me when I was 15 years old.

  • I bought some pigs. I was living in Sussex.

  • And I started to feed them in the most traditional

  • and environmentally friendly way.

  • I went to my school kitchen, and I said,

  • "Give me the scraps that my school friends have turned

  • their noses up at."

  • I went to the local baker and took their stale bread.

  • I went to the local greengrocer, and I went to a farmer

  • who was throwing away potatoes because they were

  • the wrong shape or size for supermarkets.

  • This was great. My pigs turned that food waste

  • into delicious pork. I sold that pork

  • to my school friends' parents, and I made

  • a good pocket money addition to my teenage allowance.

  • But I noticed that most of the food that I was giving my pigs

  • was in fact fit for human consumption,

  • and that I was only scratching the surface,

  • and that right the way up the food supply chain,

  • in supermarkets, greengrocers, bakers, in our homes,

  • in factories and farms, we were hemorrhaging out food.

  • Supermarkets didn't even want to talk to me

  • about how much food they were wasting.

  • I'd been round the back. I'd seen bins full of food

  • being locked and then trucked off to landfill sites,

  • and I thought, surely there is something more sensible

  • to do with food than waste it.

  • One morning, when I was feeding my pigs,

  • I noticed a particularly tasty-looking sun-dried tomato loaf

  • that used to crop up from time to time.

  • I grabbed hold of it,

  • sat down, and ate my breakfast with my pigs. (Laughter)

  • That was the first act of what I later learned to call freeganism,

  • really an exhibition of the injustice of food waste,

  • and the provision of the solution to food waste,

  • which is simply to sit down and eat food,

  • rather than throwing it away.

  • That became, as it were, a way of confronting

  • large businesses in the business of wasting food,

  • and exposing, most importantly, to the public,

  • that when we're talking about food being thrown away,

  • we're not talking about rotten stuff, we're not talking about

  • stuff that's beyond the pale.

  • We're talking about good, fresh food that is being wasted

  • on a colossal scale.

  • Eventually, I set about writing my book,

  • really to demonstrate the extent of this problem

  • on a global scale. What this shows is

  • a nation-by-nation breakdown of the likely level

  • of food waste in each country in the world.

  • Unfortunately, empirical data, good, hard stats, don't exist,

  • and therefore to prove my point, I first of all had to find

  • some proxy way of uncovering

  • how much food was being wasted.

  • So I took the food supply of every single country

  • and I compared it to what was actually likely

  • to be being consumed in each country.

  • That's based on diet intake surveys, it's based on

  • levels of obesity, it's based on a range of factors

  • that gives you an approximate guess

  • as to how much food is actually going into people's mouths.

  • That black line in the middle of that table

  • is the likely level of consumption

  • with an allowance for certain levels of inevitable waste.

  • There will always be waste. I'm not that unrealistic

  • that I think we can live in a waste-free world.

  • But that black line shows what a food supply should be

  • in a country if they allow for a good, stable, secure,

  • nutritional diet for every person in that country.

  • Any dot above that line, and you'll quickly notice that

  • that includes most countries in the world,

  • represents unnecessary surplus, and is likely to reflect

  • levels of waste in each country.

  • As a country gets richer, it invests more and more

  • in getting more and more surplus

  • into its shops and restaurants,

  • and as you can see, most European

  • and North American countries

  • fall between 150 and 200 percent

  • of the nutritional requirements of their populations.

  • So a country like America has twice as much food

  • on its shop shelves and in its restaurants

  • than is actually required to feed the American people.

  • But the thing that really struck me,

  • when I plotted all this data, and it was a lot of numbers,

  • was that you can see how it levels off.

  • Countries rapidly shoot towards that 150 mark,

  • and then they level off, and they don't really go on rising

  • as you might expect.

  • So I decided to unpack that data a little bit further

  • to see if that was true or false.

  • And that's what I came up with.

  • If you include not just the food that ends up

  • in shops and restaurants, but also the food

  • that people feed to livestock,

  • the maize, the soy, the wheat, that humans could eat

  • but choose to fatten livestock instead to produce

  • increasing amounts of meat and dairy products,

  • what you find is that most rich countries

  • have between three and four times the amount of food

  • that their population needs to feed itself.

  • A country like America has four times the amount of food

  • that it needs.

  • When people talk about the need to increase global

  • food production to feed those nine billion people

  • that are expected on the planet by 2050,

  • I always think of these graphs.

  • The fact is, we have an enormous buffer

  • in rich countries between ourselves and hunger.

  • We've never had such gargantuan surpluses before.

  • In many ways, this is a great success story

  • of human civilization, of the agricultural surpluses

  • that we set out to achieve 12,000 years ago.

  • It is a success story. It has been a success story.

  • But what we have to recognize now is that we are

  • reaching the ecological limits that our planet can bear,

  • and when we chop down forests, as we are every day,

  • to grow more and more food,

  • when we extract water from depleting water reserves,

  • when we emit fossil fuel emissions in the quest

  • to grow more and more food,

  • and then we throw away so much of it,

  • we have to think about what we can start saving.

  • And yesterday, I went to one of the local supermarkets

  • that I often visit to

  • inspect, if you like, what they're throwing away.

  • I found quite a few packets of biscuits amongst

  • all the fruit and vegetables and everything else

  • that was in there.

  • And I thought, well this could serve as a symbol for today.

  • So I want you to imagine that these nine biscuits

  • that I found in the bin represent the global food supply,

  • okay? We start out with nine.

  • That's what's in fields around the world every single year.

  • The first biscuit we're going to lose

  • before we even leave the farm.

  • That's a problem primarily associated with

  • developing work agriculture, whether it's

  • a lack of infrastructure, refrigeration, pasteurization,

  • grain stores, even basic fruit crates, which means

  • that food goes to waste before it even leaves the fields.

  • The next three biscuits are the foods that we decide

  • to feed to livestock, the maize, the wheat and the soya.

  • Unfortunately, our beasts are inefficient animals,

  • and they turn two-thirds of that into feces and heat,

  • so we've lost those two, and we've only kept this one

  • in meat and dairy products.

  • Two more we're going to throw away directly into bins.

  • This is what most of us think of when we think

  • of food waste, what ends up in the garbage,

  • what ends up in supermarket bins,

  • what ends up in restaurant bins. We've lost another two,

  • and we've left ourselves with just four biscuits to feed on.

  • That is not a superlatively efficient use of global resources,

  • especially when you think of the billion hungry people

  • that exist already in the world.

  • Having gone through the data, I then needed

  • to demonstrate where that food ends up.

  • Where does it end up? We're used to seeing the stuff

  • on our plates, but what about all the stuff

  • that goes missing in between?

  • Supermarkets are an easy place to start.

  • This is the result of my hobby,

  • which is unofficial bin inspections. (Laughter)

  • Strange you might think, but if we could rely on corporations

  • to tell us what they were doing in the back of their stores,

  • we wouldn't need to go sneaking around the back,

  • opening up bins and having a look at what's inside.

  • But this is what you can see more or less on

  • every street corner in Britain, in Europe, in North America.

  • It represents a colossal waste of food,

  • but what I discovered whilst I was writing my book

  • was that this very evident abundance of waste

  • was actually the tip of the iceberg.

  • When you start going up the supply chain,

  • you find where the real food waste is happening

  • on a gargantuan scale.

  • Can I have a show of hands

  • if you have a loaf of sliced bread in your house?

  • Who lives in a household where that crust --

  • that slice at the first and last end of each loaf --

  • who lives in a household where it does get eaten?

  • Okay, most people, not everyone, but most people,

  • and this is, I'm glad to say, what I see across the world,

  • and yet has anyone seen a supermarket or sandwich shop

  • anywhere in the world that serves sandwiches

  • with crusts on it? (Laughter)

  • I certainly haven't.

  • So I kept on thinking, where do those crusts go? (Laughter)

  • This is the answer, unfortunately:

  • 13,000 slices of fresh bread coming out of

  • this one single factory every single day, day-fresh bread.

  • In the same year that I visited this factory,

  • I went to Pakistan, where people in 2008 were going hungry

  • as a result of a squeeze on global food supplies.

  • We contribute to that squeeze

  • by depositing food in bins here in Britain

  • and elsewhere in the world. We take food

  • off the market shelves that hungry people depend on.

  • Go one step up, and you get to farmers,

  • who throw away sometimes a third or even more

  • of their harvest because of cosmetic standards.

  • This farmer, for example, has invested 16,000 pounds

  • in growing spinach, not one leaf of which he harvested,

  • because there was a little bit of grass growing in amongst it.

  • Potatoes that are cosmetically imperfect,

  • all going for pigs.

  • Parsnips that are too small for supermarket specifications,

  • tomatoes in Tenerife,

  • oranges in Florida,

  • bananas in Ecuador, where I visited last year,

  • all being discarded. This is one day's waste

  • from one banana plantation in Ecuador.

  • All being discarded, perfectly edible,

  • because they're the wrong shape or size.

  • If we do that to fruit and vegetables,

  • you bet we can do it to animals too.

  • Liver, lungs, heads, tails,

  • kidneys, testicles,

  • all of these things which are traditional,

  • delicious and nutritious parts of our gastronomy

  • go to waste. Offal consumption has halved

  • in Britain and America in the last 30 years.

  • As a result, this stuff gets fed to dogs at best,

  • or is incinerated.

  • This man, in Kashgar, Xinjiang province, in Western China,

  • is serving up his national dish.

  • It's called sheep's organs.

  • It's delicious, it's nutritious,

  • and as I learned when I went to Kashgar,

  • it symbolizes their taboo against food waste.

  • I was sitting in a roadside cafe.

  • A chef came to talk to me, I finished my bowl,

  • and halfway through the conversation, he stopped talking

  • and he started frowning into my bowl.

  • I thought, "My goodness, what taboo have I broken?

  • How have I insulted my host?"

  • He pointed at three grains of rice

  • at the bottom of my bowl, and he said, "Clean." (Laughter)

  • I thought, "My God, you know, I go around the world

  • telling people to stop wasting food.

  • This guy has thrashed me at my own game." (Laughter)

  • But it gave me faith. It gave me faith that we, the people,