Food Waste in Canada: Stats and Solutions

By Laurie Horning, Business Development Associate  //  January 15, 2015

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Canadians represent about 0.5% of the world’s population, produce about 1.5% of the food in the world, and purchase about 0.6% of the total food produced throughout the world. Unfortunately, they also wasted over 6 million tonnes* of food in 2009, equating to roughly 183kg per person, according to Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics 2009.

An article in CBC News reported that the reason behind all of this wasted food is largely due to poor meal planning and sales promotions influencing consumers to buy food in bulk for a better deal. This assertion is supported by the Ontario-based Value Chain Management (VCM) Centre, which deems Canadian retailers one of the culprits for food waste since they solicit fliers that encourage consumers to purchase foods on sale or marketed at a discounted price, leading to more food bought and more food wasted. After all, the VCM Centre reports that 51% of the estimated $31 billion worth of food thrown away in Canada is made up of household leftovers. Still, there is not much communication along the food supply chain, which means farms continue to produce the same amounts of food without knowing whether they are oversupplying their customers.

Although the VCM Centre reported in their study that there is not yet a nationwide Canadian policy meant to curb food waste (like France’s “Antigaspi” pact), certain municipalities are taking steps to reduce the amount of food sent to landfills in their area. In British Columbia, for instance, Metro Vancouver introduced a disposal ban on organic waste in 2015, much like the one in Massachusetts. The ban will require all residents, businesses, and institutions to separate organic waste (anything that will decay into compost, like food and yard waste) from regular garbage, significantly reducing the 250,000 tonnes* of food sent to landfills in Vancouver each year. To bring all residents of the region up to speed on the legislation, Metro Vancouver’s website offers resources, tips, and explanations for individuals and organizations alike to ensure everyone understands the ban and contributes to its success.

Municipal legislation notwithstanding, the VCM Centre also pointed out that Europe as a whole is further ahead in waste reducing initiatives than Canada at the moment. However, the study concluded that Canada takes the lead over Europe in encouraging and influencing businesses to change their waste behaviors by showing how the business will profit from saving and reducing food waste. The study highlighted the “Sell More, Waste Less” program, which notes that business managers are able to reduce costs by 20% while increasing their sales by 10% simply by making changes that improve the way their product chain movement is managed.

Other cities throughout Canada are becoming more proactive on rescuing edibles from the dump. The City of Vancouver calculated that if every resident in Vancouver recycled their food scraps for an entire year, they would prevent 5,500 trucks full of food scraps from going to the landfill. This is why they created a Green Bin Program, where all yard waste and food scraps can be placed for weekly pick up (to be composted) instead of being sent to rot in a landfill. The Providence of Manitoba started a group called Food Matters Manitoba back in 2011, where they set a goal to save their food waste from perishing in the landfill by 50%.

It’s great that our northern neighbors are taking various creative steps to stop food excess from ending up in the landfill. If all countries take initiative like this, hopefully in the future we can make food waste nothing but a distant memory.

* 1 tonne = 1,000 kg, or 2,240 lbs.

Topics: Food Waste Around the Globe, Food Waste Prevention Newsletter