Anthony Bourdain narrates a new documentary—”Wasted! The Story of Food Waste“—released last month, which explores the ways food waste directly contributes to climate change.
The documentary refers to food waste as “one of the greatest problems of the 21st century,” and is rich in (often shocking) data, which helps reveal the magnitude of the problem. For example: we feed 70 per cent of the world’s grain to animals, 90 per cent of America’s food waste ends up in landfills (and it takes a head of lettuce 25 years to biodegrade in a landfill due to a lack of oxygen), and food waste produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
While the statistics are daunting, the film takes a positive stance, wishing to motivate and empower people to change their habits at a micro scale (their day-to-day lives) and at a macro scale (policy, regulation, initiatives, etc.). Examples of solutions are: eating leftovers or feeding them to animals, turning byproducts into electricity through anaerobic digestion, composting, fees by trash weight, and more. These approaches are illustrated in fascinating, global case studies.
The film also uses the Environmental Protection Agency’s food waste pyramid to explain the ideal order in which food should be used: 1) to feed people, 2) feed livestock, 3) generate energy, 4) create nutrient-rich soil, and 5) go to landfill. It elucidates each topic using well-known chefs as guides, like Dan Barber, Danny Bowien, and Mario Batali.
Author and activist Tristram Stuart featured in the film emphasises the influence of supermarkets in particular, describing them as “the apex of power in our food system,” capable of solving a lot of the world’s food waste problems overnight, if only they wanted to.
In Bourdain’s words:
“Why should you care? [Because] we are in a position to do something. It will have a tangible, beneficial effect on the planet, so it’s not a lot to ask.”