How to reduce food waste

Last updated December 22, 2020
Reading time: 3 min

Did you know that food waste accounts for eight per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)? Reducing our food waste is an effective way to promote a cleaner environment and fight climate change.

A mountain of waste

About 20 per cent of the food produced in Canada is lost or wasted. If a mountain was formed with all the food waste produced in North America (168 million tonnes), it would cover a significant part of downtown Montréal!

Food decomposition in landfill sites releases millions of tonnes of methane, a GHG that contributes significantly to global warming. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest polluter, after China and the United States.

Throwing out food is tantamount to wasting the resources that were used to grow it, transport it, sell it and prepare it.

Towards a waste-free city

Reducing waste and food waste is a priority for the city. The municipal administration has made a commitment to:

  • Reduce food waste by 50 per cent between now and 2025 and work towards zero waste by 2030.
  • Implement initiatives aimed at bringing about changes in behaviour meant to counter food waste by residents and companies.
  • Build two organic materials treatment centres by 2022 to help reduce GHGs emitted by organic waste by  22,000 tonnes annually.
  • Hold a public consultation on best practices in order to eliminate waste and the destruction of food suitable for consumption by businesses, institutions and industries.

Businesses have a part to play as well

Small, medium-sized and large  businesses can take action to curb food waste and its impact on the environment and the climate.

If you are an employer, you can:

  • Organize an anti-waste challenge to encourage your staff to decrease the amount of waste they generate and thus reduce their carbon footprint. If 20 of your employees reduced their food waste by 30 per cent, they would decrease the amount of CO2 they produce per year by four tonnes.
  • Donate excess food to a community organization when you hold an event.

In addition, if your company works in the agri-food sector, you can:

  • Optimize your supply chains in order to reduce unsold food as much as possible.
  • Distribute your surplus to food banks for the most disadvantaged people.
  • Get involved in the circular economy. The waste that your company generates can become a resource for another company, one that transforms fruit into juice or bread into beer, for example.

Avoid household waste

We can change our habits now and, at the same time, generate real savings. For example, you can:  

  • Plan your meals. Come up with a weekly menu using the food items in your fridge. Make a grocery list and only purchase the quantity you need for your recipe.
  • Properly preserve your food items. Place foods that aren’t as fresh at the front of your refrigerator so that you consume them quickly and don’t forget about them. When you open a container, write the date on it, and mark the cooking date on your leftovers. Properly close your containers and keep your refrigerator between 0 and 4°C.
  • Change the way you think. Freeze your leftovers instead of throwing them out, or have them for lunch  the next day. Use overripe fruit to make a smoothie or a compote. Make soup with wilted vegetables. Share your surplus with colleagues or neighbours.

Raise awareness among young people

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, encourage children to adopt new habits, notably with the  Food Matters Action Kit created by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The activities featured in the kit are aimed at motivating youth to act now to change their behaviour:

  • Organize a Disco Soup party.
  • Learn food preservation techniques.
  • Build vermicomposting bins or solar dehydrators.