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Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  516 ratings  ·  72 reviews
The true cost of what the global food industry throws away.

With shortages, volatile prices and nearly one billion people hungry, the world has a food problem—or thinks it does. Farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard up to half of their food—enough to feed all the world's hungry at least three times over. Forests are destroyed
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 12th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2009)
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Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star-reads, ecology
What a shocker of a book.

Tristram Stuart is a fireball campaigner. He's a freegan, someone who is happy to forage for free food in supermarket dumpsters. But he is also fantastically able. In 2011 he fed 5,000 people in London on food that would otherwise have gone to waste, and in 2014 he did the same thing with 6000 people in Brussels. He wants us all to wake up to the amount of food we are wasting - as individuals, farmers, food manufacturers and retail outlets. Our wanton behaviour with food
Mar 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most captivating books I've read in a while—and it's not because of the writing. It's because the story is so astonishing. The sheer scale of waste, and the idea that we could reduce a lot of the pressure on the planet and feed the starving, simply by avoiding so much waste, is really appealing to me.

I thought I knew a lot about the food system and humanity's impacts on the planet, but none had made it clear how big of a contributor food waste is. Reading this book was like w
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
Having worked in food retail before I was very aware of the food waste problem going in, but quite possibly not the scale to which it was occurring. Tristram Stuart obviously has an agenda, and many of his stats are used for sensational purposed- especially as many of the stats were so broad they were essentially meaningless (what does 30%-90% actually mean?)

That being said I know I will be more aware of what I eat and buy. My lettuce is already in a jar of water in my fridge. I am now convince
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2-star
I really fucking hate how Goodreads does not save my reviews if I spend too long writing them.

Shorter review: more substance! fewer unimaginable examples! (Quick, kids - draw me 275 tonnes of imperfect tomatoes rotting in the field!)
More guidance for the normal consumer! Less pretense that being a "fregan" is changing anything or is a viable choice for much of the world!
More focus on the human end of food waste (starvation)! Less focus on "gee, aren't corporations just awful"!

Also, the notes/bi
Amy Layton
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I knew that we had a waste problem, especially as a country, but I never knew just how bad.  I never knew how many restrictions there were for farmers to even be able to sell their food to markets, or the reasoning behind markets' manner of purchasing, selling, and wasting of so much food.  

The photographs that Stuart includes are absolutely breath-taking and stunning.  Not to mention, of course, horrifying.  To know that capitalism creates waste is one thing, but to see it is another.  

Lucy Mazalon | Shelf of Maz
This book has blown my mind. It should be compulsory reading for everyone. I wonder if the situation has improved at all in the decade since it was written - I am certainly inspired to do my own independent follow up research!
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every day hundreds of people around the world go to sleep with empty stomachs. True to its name, the book uncovers the global food scandal and gives us an insight into the food waste at each and every process in the global food industry. The book also underlines the fact that our craving for over stocking food is cause of deforestation, global warming and climatic changes. The author will leave you feeling guilty about every morsel that you have ever left on your plate in the past. This book hig ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, nonfiction
Waste was eye-opening in terms of how much food is wasted (primarily) in the developed world. The author takes us through the waste produced at every step of the process from farm to plate. He covers farming practices, harvest, processing, grocery store stocking, handling of overstock in restaurants and leftovers in family homes. One of the most shocking chapters is about fishing practices and how much sea life is destroyed in the pursuit of our most commonly eaten species. The author cites page ...more
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Completely shocking book about the enormous amount of food that is thrown away, food that could have been consumed by the hungry (domestically or internationally), food that cost money and resources (the energy, water, time and additional money that went into planting, growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting it all) only to have it be thrown away.

The author covers how waste occurs at every step “from farm to fork”, how much of it occurs, who does the wasting, and why the was
My God!!! The sheer magnitude of the waste and its environmental impact is astounding!!! Makes me want to go into food systems work. From the supermarkets to the food manufacturers to the restaurants and consumers, so much waste all along the system. And every time food is thrown out, it's not just the food that's wasted, it's all the forests that were sacrificed for extra farm land, all the fossil fuels that were consumed to farm and transport the food, all the manpower, and other resources tha ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was already quite aware of the scale of food waste and most of its associated economic and environmental problems before I read this book. Still, this is a very comprehensive, well-researched book on European food waste situations and food disposal policies as of 2008. Tristram Stuart’s passion for reducing food waste and raising awareness is evident through his actions and writing. I especially enjoy how in depth Stuart tackles food waste issues at different levels from personal to household, ...more
Chris Walker
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it
After getting over the fact that the author ate from garbage bins for several years without any apparent ill effects, I found this book to be a well researched and heartfelt treatise against food waste. While the wealth of statistics was soporific at bedtime, I found enough of interest to push through to the end, although I skipped the comprehensive appendix. The book is written from a British perspective, but there are common issues in Australia. The author, being a former pig farmer, would lik ...more
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was somewhat aware of the topic, after having seen a German documentary/report and that, combined with this book, paints a grisly picture of how we deal with food.

Since i saw the before mentioned documentary, I wasn't disgusted by his freeganism. I can understand that some people have issues with that.

Back to the book. It clearly describes, based on facts and research, that a lot of food is simply wasted for no good reason. The author refrains from preaching but simply bombards you with data a
Aleksandra Taranov
Stuart tackles the topic of food waste and makes a strong argument for its importance. I appreciate the way that he directly connects food waste to land use in other parts of the globe.

I also enjoyed his use of statistics and information on *why* the phenomenon happens. I was surprised that smaller stores waste more but unsurprised that people are actually terrible at determining how much they are wasting.

It was also good to read about the interaction between supermarkets and manufacturers and
Mary Mimouna
Excellent, but one of the most disturbing books I've ever read.

I have never been one to waste food and have always been upset at others who did so. But I had NO IDEA of the amount of food wastage in the entire industry. In rich, industrialized countries, it is estimated that out of the total food harvested (counting wastage at every level of production), 60% never makes it to consumers' mouths. This is not just vegetable waste; millions of animals are killed and then WASTED each year. It made me
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know this is a few years old now, buts it's still a great book to scare you into being a better consumer. Not least as all the things not working in 2009 still aren't working (I assume that doesn't count as a spoiler?!).
If you watched Hugh's war on waste you might well suspect the direction was lifted straight from this book, probably was, and just shows how next to nothing has changed.
It's a very easy read without dumbing anything down. If I can read it in two days it MUST be a page turner.
Stuart provides a straightforward message to decrease environmental impact an solve world hunger: waste less food. Similarly to 'Eating Animals', the thesis is both well-founded by numbers and interviews as well are personal. Very recommended for the ecological minded! ...more
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great and a good indicator of how inefficient we are on managing our food system.

Some of the following facts are interesting,

Most importantly starting from the European uniformity rule on fruit and vegetables which is completely pointless and embarrassing.

Some supermarkets have their share when it comes to their contracts and agreements with suppliers. By using their purchasing power they are forcing their supplier not to redistribute their leftovers, they are also rejecting a g
Juliet Wilson
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment
This sobering insight into just how much food is wasted across the world is a must read for anyone who wants to do their bit to reduce food waste. The book is slightly out of date (2009) but many of the issues are still as urgent as when it was written.

It details how much food is wasted through the whole cycle from growing food through distributing it to retailers, the unsold food that is discarded by retailers and the food that is wasted by consumers. It also demonstrates how this waste puts pr
Mark McTague
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yes, this is an "issue book," but far from being one that appeals only to certain populations with particular interests, this should appeal to everyone who a) prefers eating to not eating and b) prefers a habitable planet, and one that still has substantial forests, ocean life, and an atmosphere and climate that is not hostile to life. Food waste, the subject of this book, is far more than just "eat all your vegetables because kids are hungry in _____." Stuart shows precisely how food waste is c ...more
Ambre Golden
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
This book should be required reading for everyone.

I was not aware of the scale of food waste or the many levels at which it happens, and its consequences on the environment, until I read this book. I grew up in a house where eating leftovers was the norm, use-by dates were used as guidelines rather than strict rules, and grocery shopping only happened after careful meal-planning and list-making, and I follow the same principles in my own home now, so it didn't teach me much on how to avoid wast
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is great and sad simultenously. It tells us a story about the way humans keep on ignoring the environmental and social problems, created by wasting food in enormous quantity.
The book is inspiring and motivating the reader to cut down on household waste. We shall start from our househols and families, but it is not enough. Societies need to put pressure on the companies, so that the changes take place throughout the whole supply chain. If we want to save the planet, stop wasting food i
Christine Kenney
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Kudos to this author for dumpster diving, inventorying and living off their contents.
Chapter 18 on an action plan is a worthwhile. The preceding 17 chapters were repetitive but raised some interesting points. The claim I found least persuasive was that if the everyone has access to sufficient food, this will manifest in better environmental conservation. Wouldn't population growth once again leave some of us hungry?... but it is a comfort to know that there is slack everywhere in the food supp
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Apparently very thorough, as well as deeply discouraging, overview of international agriculture, production and commerce. It appears that not very much money would be required to revise the system and ensure that the entire world is and remains well-fed, while mitigating the effects of the climate crisis as well. This book was published ten years ago. The research must have been done some time prior. I am curious if anything has changed in the interim (hopefully for the better but possibly for t ...more
3.5 / 5.0

Interesting--Lots of Stats. Quite a bit of just so reasoning and topic drift. Points out a number unintended consequences of food production system and has some interesting insights in to incentives to waste food.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I was not even able to bring myself to finish this. I agree...but I don´t and again and again. Waste of my time? I don´t know yet.
Milton Lee
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not a fun book, but one that needs to be read.
Joana Simões
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A broad picture about food waste, the challenges, the solutions.
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
A bit dry and repetitive, but an eye opening account the the sheer magnitude of global food waste. I'd love for an updated account to see how we've addressed these issues in the last 10 years. ...more
Vegan Jon
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
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Tristram Stuart is the winner of the international environmental award, The Sophie Prize 2011, for his fight against food waste. Following the critical success of Tristram’s first book, The Bloodless Revolution (2006), ‘a genuinely revelatory contribution to the history of human ideas’, Tristram has become a renowned campaigner, working in several countries to help improve the environmental and so ...more

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