Food waste is one of today’s greatest urban challenges.

Unfortunately, some food waste is unavoidable. This includes the kinds of food that can no longer be eaten or sold, such as bones, egg shells, and fruit and vegetable scraps. However, much of the food waste generated by households is by and large still edible and thus, avoidable. We tend to throw away good food because we buy more than is necessary, don’t plan our meals and portions appropriately, and don’t properly store perishable food.

In 2022, the National Zero Waste Council carried out research on household food waste across Canada. They found that 63% of the food that was thrown out could have been eaten.

This means that avoidable food waste is costing the average Canadian household more than $1,300 each year! Throwing out food is synonymous to wasting the resources that were used to grow, transport, sell and prepare the food.

In Canada, edible foods that often goes to waste are:

  • Vegetables (30%)
  • Fruit (15%)
  • Leftovers (13%)
  • Bread and Bakery (9%)
  • Dairy and Eggs (7%)

Why is food waste bad?

In line with the National Zero Waste Council’s findings on household food waste in Canada, about 2.3 million tonnes of edible food is wasted every year, totalling over $20 billion in costs.

Along with the economic costs, food waste also has significant environmental impacts. Getting food from farm to table, and then disposing the food as waste also has a sizable carbon footprint, which contributes to Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Food decomposition in landfills releases millions of tonnes of methane, a GHG that significantly contributes to global warming. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest polluter globally, after China and the United States (Ville de Montreal).

Currently, Canada’s 2.3 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste equates to 6.9 million tonnes of CO2 and over 2 million cars on the road.

Diverting food waste to composting is better than having it landfilled, but preventing food from being wasted in the first place is an even better way to minimize our environmental impact. To put it in perspective, one car is taken off the road each year for every tonne of household food waste that is avoided!

Learn more about food waste in Canada.

How you can reduce your food waste

Reducing food waste is a priority for the Town. Little changes in your routine could make a big difference in reducing food waste. Here are some things you can do to reduce food waste in your home.

  • Spend some time each weekend to meal-plan for the upcoming week.
  • Before going to the grocery store, check your fridge and pantry to see what can be used up and what needs to be bought. Be sure to stick to a grocery list and to not shop when hungry!
  • Make sure to portion appropriately to avoid buying excess food and have it be thrown out by the end of the week. 
  • To preserve freshness and nutrition, use perishables such as seafood and meat earlier in the week and save staples (e.g., pasta, dairy, eggs) for later in the week.
  • Buy fresh vegetables in smaller quantities and use frozen vegetables to fill in the gaps.
  • Find more tips on meal planning here.
  • Make your food last longer by storing them properly and setting the fridge temperature to 4°C or lower.
  • Freeze food items and leftovers to make them last longer. You can consult the “Thermoguide” (only in French) produced by the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec to find out the length of time different kinds of food can be stored both in the fridge and in the freezer. You can also consult the Government of Canada’s page on safe food storage here for similar information.
  • Read more on how to properly store your food and the shelf life of different kinds of food.
  • Organize your fridge to keep food fresh for longer. Place more perishable food where it will be most seen.
  • A best before date is different from an expiration date. Best before dates refer to quality, meaning that so long as a food item has been stored properly and remained unopened even after the best before date, the food can still be fresh and of good quality.
  • Think of different ways to use food that might no longer be at its peak, such as using overripe fruit to make a smoothie or dried goods (learn how here), or making soup or stir-fry using wilted vegetables.
  • Try canning to preserve fruits and vegetables for later. Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to canning to help you get started.
  • Learn new recipes that use up extra ingredients and leftovers. Look here for some recipe inspiration.
  • Learn various ways to use commonly wasted food.

For more tips and tricks on how you can reduce food waste in your home, visit the Love Food Hate Waste Canada website.

You can also visit the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Food Matters Action Kit for Youth, which is packed with resources and activities to inspire kids of all ages to prevent food waste at home, school and in the community.