Is supersizing creating more waste?

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We associate the term “supersize’ with the portions at fast food restaurants, and the 2004 documentary by Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me., but  are the portions we are consuming and waste becoming supersized?

In the early 2000’s health officials raised the alarm about the correlation of increased portion sizes and the increase of obesity. We are now become more aware of food waste issues as well.

North Americans spend nearly half their food budget, and consume one-third of daily calories, from foods prepared outside of home where portion sizes have increased greatly.

According to WRAP results of a survey of 5000 restaurant customers in the UK to explore “why people leave food when eating out”, two-fifths of customers left food because the portions were too large.

Doctor Lisa Young and other researchers  also point out shoppers are also confused about appropriate serving sizes. The current labelling on food products are often out of date and no longer depict realistic serving sizes.

Serving sizes at home and restaurants are not matching our recommended Food Guide servings.

To hold our supersize servings, plates have increased in size. Grandma’s china dishes of the 1960 with plates of an average of 9 inch diameter must be replaced with newer plates that are 11 to 12 inches in diameter.

Consumers frequently complain about purchases being over-packaged. Today, an average person living in Western Europe or North America consumes 100 kilograms of plastic each year, mostly in the form of packaging. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, between 22 percent and 43 percent of the plastic used worldwide is disposed of in landfills.

In 1960 Barbie dolls were packaged in small boxes with cellophane windows and while today’s doll travels the same distance the packaging has drastically increased.

The original concept behind packaging was to protect the product from damage and to aid storage and transportation. Today much more is involved in the careful design of a product package; it is now a marketing tool to motivate us to buy the merchandise.

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We have become supersize shoppers. The Daily Mail reports that women in the U.K. buy half of their body weight in clothes each year, and the average woman in England has 22 unworn items in her closet.

 

To house our growing collections of stuff, we must build and buy bigger homes. The median size for newly constructed house today stands at 2,478 square feet, up from 983 square feet in 1950, even as family size has shrank during those years. Construction waste is a significant waste directed to landfills.

Municipal Solid Waste ( MSW) is expected to double by 2025; current global MSW generation levels are approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year, and are expected to increase to approximately 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. This represents a significant increase in per capita waste generation rates, from 1.2 to 1.42 kg per person per day in the next fifteen years. OECD countries produce almost half of the world’s waste.

Landfills have kept pace with the amount of trash generated—they’ve just become larger, more efficient and more environmentally safe.

Our Supersize mentality of consumption and waste is reducing the resources we will have for the future. It is time to reduce our portions of everything we consume and discard.