Bread rolls from the day before, leftovers from dinner, expired yoghurt – around 11 million tons of food end up in the garbage in Germany every year. We give tips so that less food ends up in the bin unnecessarily.
The carrots are shriveled, the rolls are pretty hard and the best-before date for yoghurt has passed: on average, every German throws away 82 kilograms of food every year. A lot of what ends up in the bin doesn’t belong in it. Most of the food that is thrown away is not waste at all, the products are simply no longer good enough for us.
Tips to reduce the amount of food that ends up in the trash
The federal government wants to halve food waste by 2030. If we reach the target, Germany alone could save 38 million tons of harmful greenhouse gases. That is more than half of the total greenhouse gas emissions from German agriculture in 2020, according to the WWF.
It’s best to start today – here are our tips for less food in the garbage:
1. Avoid unnecessary purchases and bad purchases
If you are out and about with a shopping list and only put what is on the shopping cart in the shopping cart, you will buy fewer unnecessary items. Important: Before you go shopping, check the supplies at home to see whether there are still enough couscous, lemons and herbs in stock.
2. Understand the best before date correctly
According to European law, the minimum shelf life of the product must be stated on almost all packaged food and beverages. However, the best-before date (MHD) is not an expiry date. It is merely a “freshness guarantee” from the manufacturer, stating that the product purchased is guaranteed to retain its taste, texture and color up to that date. In order to avoid possible legal disputes, the MHD is usually set relatively short by the producer. However, many foods stay in perfect condition for much longer.
Greenpeace has tested how long food can still be eaten after the expiry date. The astonishing result: three out of eight foods were still edible a full 16 weeks after the best-before date had expired. Namely yoghurt, soy yoghurt and tofu. Salami, cheese and cakes also lasted well beyond the best-before date.
The best-before date should not be confused with the use-by date: food that has passed its use-by date should be discarded.
3. Trust your nose and eyes – not the MHD
Are you unsure whether you can still enjoy a food product even though it has passed its best-before date? Trust your feelings. Your own nose and eyes are a better guide than the best-before date. “Anyone who looks, smells, checks the consistency and tastes a small amount usually forms the right judgment themselves,” recommends Hanna Simons, spokeswoman for Greenpeace in Austria.
With dairy products, it is easy to determine whether the product is still good: discoloration, a noticeable smell or taste are signs that the goods have spoiled. If this is not the case, it can usually be consumed without hesitation.
For rice and pasta without eggs, the shelf life is practically unlimited.
Sugar, coffee, tea, preserves, legumes with a low fat content and spices in aroma protection packaging can also be stored almost forever.
4. A second life for bread, fruits and vegetables
A dose of ingenuity helps for stale bread and fruit and vegetables that are no longer fresh. Overripe fruit can be quickly boiled down into jam. Ripe fruits provide a particularly good taste. Wrinkled potatoes can be processed into mashed potatoes. Carrots that are no longer fresh become a soup.
Dry bread can be used for bread dumplings or croutons. If the bread is very hard, you can use it to make breadcrumbs. Even better: freeze bread before it gets old and defrost as needed.
5. Off to the freezer!
Instead of “off in the bin!” it means from now on “off to the freezer!”. If you find that you have bought too much bread, vegetables, milk or cheese, you can freeze the food and thus prolong its life.
6. Store properly
Put new canned goods in the cupboard behind those that were already there. In this way, the shorter-lasting ones are automatically consumed first.
And make sure you store fruit and vegetables correctly: tomatoes, for example, are sensitive to cold. “They lose their taste in the fridge and go moldy quickly,” says Johanna Prinz. She advises: It is best to store them in an airy and cool place on the pantry. Garlic and onions also go rotten quickly. They should not be stored in airtight containers.
8. Food waste starts in the field
Strawberries have long become a symbol of food waste: large parts of the harvest are plowed under, they rot in the field or end up in biogas plants. What you can do to prevent food waste in the field:
Buy local fruit and vegetables
If possible, pick your own fruit and vegetables in the field next summer.
Ask specifically for “Class II” fruit and vegetables.
When it comes to ready-made jam, frozen fruit and preserves, give preference to locally grown products.
9. Freshen up food instead of throwing it away
It is not always possible to stick to the meal plan exactly, or the family is less hungry than expected. Then food is left over and becomes limp, soft or hard if stored for a long time.
10. Please dispose of spoiled food
On the other hand, the following also applies: food that has actually gone bad belongs in the bin, not on the plate. Foodborne infections and mold are not to be trifled with. If bread has become moldy, you should discard the whole loaf, even if the mold was small. Meat and sausage products also belong in the garbage after the use-by date has passed.
Intelligent packaging is the future
They are still not very common because of the high costs, but intensive research is being carried out: The industry has been working on intelligent packaging for a long time, which is supposed to provide information about the condition of a product. The Federal Center for Consumer Protection lists four different methods: time-temperature indicators, freshness indicators, radio chips or barcodes.
Problems of our throwaway society
Our throwaway society brings with it ethical problems: we throw away food that would actually still be edible – in other countries people suffer or die of hunger. Throwing away food is also ecologically problematic. Important resources were used for the production: energy, water and raw materials. Around 3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents are caused by so-called food waste, according to Greenpeace. Environmental groups agree that most of the waste is avoidable.