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Food Waste in the Home

Canadians are throwing out more food than they realize – food that could, at one point, have been eaten!

Inevitably, some food waste is unavoidable – this is the food that can’t generally be sold or eaten, such as bones, vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags, and coffee grounds.

Avoidable food waste is the edible food that ends up in the compost or in the bin. Unfortunately, we often waste good food because we buy too much, cook too much, or don’t store it correctly.

In 2017 the National Zero Waste Council conducted research on household food waste in Canada, and the results were astonishing.

  • 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten.
  • For the average Canadian household that amounts to 140 kilograms of wasted food per year – at a cost of more than $1,100 per year!
  • For Canada as a whole, that amounts to almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year, costing Canadians in excess of $17 billion!
  • All types of food are wasted, but in Canada the most prominently wasted foods by weight are:
    • Vegetables: 30%
    • Fruit: 15%
    • Leftovers: 13%
    • Bread and Bakery: 9%
    • Dairy and Eggs: 7%

To put that in perspective, every day in Canada we waste:

  • 470,000 heads of lettuce,
  • 1,200,000 tomatoes,
  • 2,400,000 potatoes,
  • 750,000 loaves of bread,
  • 1,225,000 apples,
  • 555,000 bananas,
  • 1,000,000 cups of milk
  • and 450,000 eggs

Environmental Toll

Wasting food means we are wasting the resources used to grow, produce and distribute that food to consumers. Getting food from farm to table, and then managing or disposing of food as waste, also has a significant carbon footprint – contributing to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 and 2.1 million cars on the road!

Diverting food waste to composting is better than sending it to a landfill, but preventing food from being wasted in the first place is an even better way to lessen our impact on the environment. Every tonne of household food waste that is avoided is the equivalent of taking one car off the road each year.

The Good News

The good news is that this problem is solvable. If we all start using up the food we buy, together we can make a big difference. We’re asking people to start by making just one small change. Love Food Hate Waste Canada offers simple steps to reduce food waste, from storing food so it stays fresh to using up leftovers to meal planning.

Find Out More

The National Zero Waste Council’s 2017 Benchmark Study on Household Food Waste used existing kitchen diary surveys and waste composition studies collected by several Canadian municipalities to estimate the amount of food waste generated by the average Canadian household. The Benchmark was completed by Tetra Tech and focused on edible food waste – that is, the food waste that could be avoided by households changing the way they handle and store food. For more information on the methodology, please refer to LFHW Canada Household Food Waste Methodology FAQ’s.