A powerful art installation is expected to bring the issue of food waste and its impact on climate change to COP26.
According to the United Nations stats, if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the USA and China. One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. Plus, it contributes approximately 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions. So, food waste literally feeds climate change. Despite this, whilst many celebrities have got behind the higher-profile problem of animal agriculture, the food waste issue is much lower on the climate crisis agenda. As a result, Israeli-Dutch artist Itamar Gilboa has created a powerful installation to raise awareness at COP26.
Empty Plate Effect
The “Food Waste Effect” highlights the link between food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, it focuses on household food waste. This accounts for 60% of all food waste. The artwork is situated in the Green Zone of the Glasgow venue, where it will be seen by over 25,000 visitors and delegates in the next two weeks. It features 403 intricate plaster replicas of food items inside a glass greenhouse, including bananas, broccoli, and bread. This represents 117kg of food waste: the amount produced by the average UK family every 6 months. Housed in a greenhouse, an LED ticker displays a stream of data quantifying the scale of food waste and its greenhouse gas contributions.
By illustrating the link, Gilboa aims to show how simple behaviour changes can have a huge effect on climate change. “Through the work, I wish to create a space where conversations on ecology, permanence, and personal responsibility can emerge,” he explains. “My hope is that the work will encourage people to think about the implication of their personal consumption habits on global food and climate issues, and, as a result, inspire them to recognise how much power they hold to combat waste and climate change.”
Mayonnaise maestro Hellman’s were eager to work with environmental artist Gilboa. Having recently conducted a major behaviour change study, Christina Bauer-Plank, Global Brand Vice President of Hellmann’s, points out, “Globally, 70% of people agree “avoiding food waste” is important to them, yet household food waste remains a massive issue and significant contributor to climate change.” The condiment company is promoting small changes that make a big difference to tackle food waste. “Adopting a single Use-Up day per week, for example, making a meal from only the food you already have in your home using a simple ‘flexipe’ can help cut household food waste by one third.” Bauer-Plank explains. “With 60% of food waste happening in the home, we can all drive positive change from our own kitchens.”
Recent UN figures indicated one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Additionally, 1.3 billion tonnes of food go to waste every year. `According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it causes about $940 billion per year in economic losses.
Commenting on the bigger picture, Dr Liz Goodwin, Food Loss Director at the World Resources Institute said, “Food loss and waste is not just about the food that is thrown away and that would end up at the landfill. We also have to account for the resources used in producing the food, which includes water, land, energy, labour, and capital.” She emphasised the need for COP26 to address the problem. “The issue must be high on the agenda for global leaders across business and government if we are to deliver the targets in the Paris Agreement. Only if we tackle food loss and waste can we feed the world within planetary boundaries, mitigate climate change and relieve pressure on natural resources.”