Ugly potatoes and abundant waste

Surplus oranges in California, USA

Gorgeous washes of natural living colour, laid to waste.

I remember seeing pictures in National Geographic (likely that because i wasn’t quite flipping through the inky pages yet as a kid), hordes of hungry hands reaching out for food rations, in India, Bangladesh, Mexico, around Africa. The kind of fear that settles on a young self learning about scarcity and other people in the world is a dull, sad weight.

Later, i remember reading about supermarkets; those behemoths of trade reject about 40% of all fruits and veg on cosmetic grounds. Still later—40% of all fish caught in the North Seas are discarded. That’s about  2.3 million tons.

From factories and farms across the world, perfectly edible food in the millions of tons are discarded. Rejects because the quota was met (far too much trouble to deal with the surplus), demand , or because they didn’t look good. We are hardly in scarcity; we are ridiculously abundant. Stripping and straining the earth’s resources and certainly not economising on the products and profits. We have to stop the bleed.

And this is how freegans arose. They’re not mad hippies, and the rest of us run the accusation of being ignorant and conservative. With our twin prides of efficiency and food-obssessions, this island could do great in setting a better example in consumption lifestyles..



40 m Tons of food thrown out in the US each year. This could feed 2 billion people for a year.

1.6m The estimated number of tonnes of food waste produced by British retailers each year.

1.2m Tons of food thrown away still in its packaging.

30% Amount of food the average person throws out in the UK.

923m The number of undernourished people in the world, according to a 2007 UN survey.


558,900 Tons of food thrown out in SG per year (stats, 2008). Which can fill 598 Olympic-sized pools!

0.31kg The amount of food waste the average person produces every day. This is more than Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. We are also the lowest in food recycling.

100 Daily amount (tons) by the lone food waste recycling plant on our island. The energy generated can power 3,000 4-room HDB flats.

locally: foodheart

Potatoes rejected for cosmetic reasons at a potato farm in Kent that supplies Tesco

1.9 billion potatoes are wasted in the UK per year

Surplus tomatoes dumped on farmland in Tenerife

4 of the 8.5 million tons of tomatoes cultivated in Europe yearly are discarded during the process

Unwanted fish discarded from an industrial trawler

2.3 million tons of fish from the North Atlantic and North Seas are discarded.

[. images via the Guardian]


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