It is already well established that switching to a plant-based diet can reduce our carbon footprint substantially; in fact, veganism is now the “single biggest way” to reduce our impact on the environment, according to research. For most modern consumers, however, reducing the amount of waste we produce as a family or individual is now increasingly important. Thankfully, eating a vegan diet can also help us to meet this objective in a number of obvious and not so obvious ways, as will we look at in this article.
Plant-based food reduces the need for plastic packaging
According to Statistica, since the widespread use of plastics started in the 1950s, the global production of plastic materials has surpassed more than nine billion metric tons, of which more than half ends up in waste. In the UK alone, around three-quarters of our plastic goes into waste.
Most supermarkets in the UK have now firmly embraced the phased removal of plastic packaging due to considerable customer demand. This is especially so in the fruit and veg section, where consumers can now choose to pack their own items in recyclable bags. After all, unlike fresh meat and fish, fruit and vegetables often don’t’ require packaging (most have their own natural packaging). It is expected that this trend will increase in 2022, especially because, as reported in the Grocer, “Supermarkets are to be told they should ditch plastic packaging from fruit & veg aisles if the industry is to hit its targets in the war on plastic”, as part of the sector’s ‘Plastics Pact’.
The good news is that consumers don’t need to wait for this to happen, with a wide range of non-pre-packaged fruit and veg now available. In addition, there is a huge increase in the availability of non-waste shops, allowing shoppers to place food into their own packaging, jars, and containers.
Less wastage in the production of fruit and vegetables
In addition to the reduction in waste possible at the point of sale, there is far less waste involved in the production of the fruit and veg we eat compared to the meat and dairy industry. This is because the production of animals for food creates enormous waste and uses vast amounts of natural resources such as water.
For example, in the fishing industry, it is estimated that for every pound of fish caught in our oceans and lakes, around five times more untargeted species are trapped and die as a result. And according to the US Water Footprint Network, every pint of milk requires 1,000 pints of water to produce. They also estimate that 1 kg of beef requires around 15,000 litres of water in its production.
In contrast, the production of 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres of water, 1kg of apples requires 822 litres, and 1kg of tomatoes requires 214 litres.
This article only covers the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how a plant-based diet can reduce the level of waste. Suffice to say, the total reduction in waste for plants versus meat and dairy from the start of production to final consumption can be substantial. This is even more so if we can grow our own fruit and vegetables and buy local produce.
Given the ever-increasing demand on our planet’s finite natural resources, we expect to see a greater emphasis on reducing waste in the human food chain in the coming years, especially as consumers take greater strides to reduce their environmental footprint.
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