Health & Wellness

We’re Throwing Money in the Trash

Canadians throw out $18 worth of food every week, according to a new study


As more Canadians are talking about the problem of avoidable food waste, researchers are doing more to monitor the scale of the problem.

Until recently, most studies on household food waste relied on people self-reporting their waste, and they often understate how much they really waste, so University of Guelph researchers decided to get their hands dirty. They audited the waste and tracked the food spending of 94 family homes in Guelph, ON. Their findings, published in late September in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, show that the average home throws out $18 worth of edible food each week—or $936 wasted each year.

Researchers didn’t count food that had gone bad before being tossed, only food that was thrown out despite still being edible. Two-thirds of food thrown out included fruits and vegetables; the most common items were tomatoes, apples, watermelon, potatoes, bread, and pasta.

“A lot of what they’re throwing away are really healthful fruits and vegetables that would help meet recommendations for key nutrients like fibre,” Jess Haines, co-author and professor with the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at Guelph University, said in a statement.

That waste also contributes to upping each household’s environmental footprint, producing on average an additional 23.3 kilograms (51.4 pounds) of greenhouse gases emitted per week.

Researchers say much of the waste results from impulse buying. Some homes also aren’t doing enough to properly store their food.

If you’re buying bread, opt for smaller loaves to avoid spoiling, or store a portion of the loaf in the freezer to prevent it from going stale or mouldy. When storing potatoes, make sure they are in a cool, dark, and dry place. Keeping them in the plastic bag they’re packaged in can contribute to condensation and rot. When you see produce going bad in your fridge, get rid of it as soon as possible, since it can cause the produce around it to go bad, as well. When it comes to storing milk, avoid keeping it in the door of your fridge, the warmest section of your fridge, so it lasts longer.

Photo: iStock/Daisy-Daisy.