Food waste has long been a problem, but it seems a particular foodstuff is more harmful than others. According to a team from Edinburgh University, wasted milk that is poured down the drain can create a carbon footprint that is equivalent to the exhaust fumes of 20,000 cars per year.

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The team state that a combination of inefficient farming and aggressive food marketing sees up to 360,000 tonnes of milk wasted in the UK each year creating 100,000 tonnes of CO2. They hope that the research will be able to help consumers reduce their own carbon footprint by reducing the amount of food they buy (and as result, throw away).

Milk is not the only foodstuff that is causing environment problems. The team also believe that by halving the amount of chicken consumed in the UK, and other developed countries, could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. While the meat industry has long been cited as a major contributor to global emissions, chicken consumption has never really been discussed. However, chicken waste causes a large amount of nitrous oxide, a key greenhouse gas.

The team believe that if average annual chicken consumption in developed countries fell from 26kg per person to the Japanese average of about 12kg by 2020, it would be equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road.

There is a problem though – the ever-increasing population. With the world’s population now over seven billion, the demand for food, particularly meat, is expected to increase over the next few decades,

Dr David Reay at Edinburgh University, who led the study on nitrous oxide published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said: “Nitrous oxide is the major greenhouse gas from agriculture. It stands out as the gas you can really reduce in terms of emissions if you can cut down on agricultural waste and increase agricultural efficiency. Eating less meat and wasting less food can play a big part in helping to keep a lid on greenhouse gas emissions as the world’s population increases.”

“Population growth means that more food has to be produced and so this source of greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow if everything else stays as it is,” Dr Reay said. “At present about 30 per cent of food is wasted globally. If we can tackle this, it would be like taking about 20 million cars off the road permanently.”

+ Edinburgh University

Via The Independent

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