The (big) problem of food waste

According to a new study by Recyc-Québec, more than 40% of food becomes food waste, much of which is destined for landfill. The main culprits are Quebec families and the processing industry.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Eric-Pierre Champagne

Eric-Pierre Champagne
The Press

7.5 million

Total weight of food that entered the supply chain in Quebec in 2019, i.e. 7.5 million tonnes. This is equivalent to 2.43 kg per capita per day.

3.1 million

Total weight of food waste in Quebec, i.e. 3.1 million tonnes. This is equivalent to 1.01 kg per capita per day.


Photo MICHAEL F. MCELROY, The New York Times Archive

What is food residue?

The Recyc-Québec report entitled Quantification study of food losses and waste in Quebec, unveiled on Wednesday, reports on food residues, made up of lost or wasted edible food and associated inedible parts. The first category obviously refers to uneaten food, while the second relates in particular to animal bones and fruit and vegetable peels.


Which foods are wasted the most?

Fruits and vegetables account for almost half of the food wasted in the province, far ahead of field crops. This category includes, in particular, losses during the milling of grains and the crushing of oilseeds.


Who produces the most food waste?

The largest proportion of food waste is found in the processing industry, followed by Quebec households.


Who wastes the most food?

Here, Quebec households are ahead of the retail trade and the food production and processing industries. For households, we are talking about 339,198 tonnes wasted annually.


Where does the food residue go?

More than a third of food waste in Quebec ends up in landfills. Only a quarter ends up in compost. The same proportion is reused in animal feed.


Half of edible food is thrown away

For edible food, nearly half goes straight to the trash as the province’s landfills overflow.


20.2 million

Number of millions of tonnes of CO2 associated with the Quebec biofood system, i.e. 20.2 million tonnes of CO equivalent2. Wasted edible food accounts for 17.7% of this total, or 3.5 million tonnes of CO equivalent2.

Reducing landfill, a priority

This report is a first for Recyc-Québec, which wanted to “measure the extent of the phenomenon of food waste in Quebec in order to come up with possible solutions for the future”, explains Sophie Langlois-Blouin, Vice-President, Performance of operations, at Recyc-Québec. One of the priorities for the organization will be to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills, says the vice-president. “The positive point of this study is that it distinguishes between inedible food and edible food that is wasted,” says Éliane Brisebois, who is coordinator and research officer at the Research Chair on Ecological Transition. from UQAM. It gives smaller numbers, but the problem [du gaspillage alimentaire] still remains serious. »

17%

A study by the United Nations Environment Program estimated that 931 million tons of food was thrown away in 2019, or 17% of the total food available on the planet.

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