Food Waste: Who's Responsible?
Taking individual responsibility as a consumer can be complex, as it can often take an elitist approach that leaves many people out of the conversation, suggesting that individual action for the environment demonstrates one’s economic privilege. However, these obstacles can be overcome by systematically approaching what the role of consumers and corporations is within sustainable consumption.
All in all, food waste is a systemic issue that requires mitigation efforts from both the food industry and consumers. This is needed to move away from only holding consumers responsible, and to begin considering how multiple societal roles influence food waste. Many supermarkets are starting to take further accountability for food waste by working directly with suppliers and to discourage discounts that push consumers to buy more.
Although reducing food waste can reduce costs for supermarkets, it's unclear how their economic interests would be served. This is why many supermarkets assume that consumers might want to waste more and therefore buy more. Overall, food waste is quite a broad issue that’s difficult to narrow down and identify one significant cause, which is why it’s important to acknowledge the role of both the consumer and company.
After all, only focusing on individual action takes the conversation away from the government’s role in regulating food waste. However, consumers can take important actions in response to food waste issues, by consistently buying only what they need.
The desire to reduce food waste must stem within the individual, and cannot be forced upon by someone else. Yet, by amplifying the urgency of climate action, it’ll be more difficult to ignore the detrimental impacts of anthropogenic climate change as easily, and would constantly remind consumers to shop more sustainably.
In order to better understand food waste, research needs to investigate why consumers waste more. Many supermarkets implement several psychological tactics within stores to make consumers buy more, so it can also be very insightful to observe these product placements to see how manipulative they actually are, and whether the buyer actually ends up using this food or just ends up wasting it.
Voting with one’s dollar helps hold supermarkets accountable for mitigating their food waste. If the level of moral outrage is intense enough for supermarkets to start losing profits, then these corporations are forced to transform their wasteful system in order to economically survive.
Future research of sustainable consumption must encompass specific government programs and the analysis of their political rationalities, which can help define this current system of consumption.
Consumption involves the incorporation of several academic disciplines, and if society can combine political aspects as well as accessibility to consumer education, issues such as food waste can be mitigated through effective systemic change.