Food Waste Goes Bananas

Worldwide, a staggering 50% of all food that is produced goes uneaten and wasted, and the world’s most popular fruit, the banana, is also the world’s most wasted fruit, says a new study conducted by Karlstad University in Sweden. In all, seven fruits and vegetables – bananas, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, pears and grapes – represented nearly half of the total fresh produce waste measured.

While consumers are behind most of the waste, as it occurs after food is brought home, grocery stores, too, throw away huge amounts, especially bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. As such, the researchers directly measured the amount of waste in the produce sections of three major supermarkets in Sweden. They also extrapolated the climate impact and financial cost of the wastage.

Consumers throughout the world prefer to eat bananas fresh and raw, and customers generally prefer a firmer banana—either completely yellow or with a tinge of green, reports Modern Farmer, meaning that perfectly edible bananas that don’t meet these standards are continuously thrown away by supermarkets that can’t sell them. According to the Swedish study, the banana provides the most food waste in terms of weight and environmental impact.

The researchers also looked specifically at the economic value of supermarket waste—not just what’s thrown out in terms of sheer weight. In terms of money lost by the business due to food waste, the leading culprits are cut greens, which go bad quickly – specifically, lettuces and fresh herbs. Lettuce alone amounted to 17 percent of the costs of wasted fruit and vegetables, the researchers found.

The researchers suggest that a focus on these seven products can help reduce economic losses in supermarkets. 

“Fruit, vegetables and bread are the biggest problem items regarding food waste in stores. These products are not so easy to redistribute because they have to get out to people while they are fresh,” Anne Marie Schrøder, chief spokeswoman for Matvett, a Norwegian nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing food waste, told ScienceNordic’s Norwegian partner forskning.no in response to the report. “Fortunately, efforts to reduce waste are in the interests of the environment and the stores. I am absolutely convinced it’s feasible to turn things around,” she added.

“There are three reasons for why we need to reduce food waste. It is not profitable for the grocery sector or for society. Nor is it environmentally or climate friendly. And we could feed the starving people of the world with the food wasted globally. All food has a value and a sensible utilization of the resources is essential,” Schrøder said.