Discarded food effects on wildlife.Scott Woodfield
New research indicates that the food discarded in landfills and at sea is having a profound effect on wildlife populations and fisheries. But removing that food waste creates its own ecological challenges.
The world wastes more than $750 billion worth of food every year and 1.6 billion tons of food left in farm fields, sent to landfills, or otherwise scattered across the countryside, plus another seven million tons of fishery discards at sea. That waste has gotten a lot of attention lately, mostly in terms of human hunger.
Hardly anyone talks about what all that food waste is doing to wildlife. But a growing body of evidence suggests that our casual attitude about waste may be reshaping the way the natural world functions across much of the planet, inadvertently subsidizing some opportunistic predators and thus contributing to the decline of other species, including some that are threatened or endangered . Discarded food can lead to overpopulation of seagulls and other animals, which can affect other wildlife populations.
‘Animals have been picking up the food scraps forever
But nothing in history approaches the scale of modern food waste.’
Animals have of course been picking up the food scraps we leave behind forever — or at least long enough to change the course of their evolution. That’s how certain wolves evolved into domestic dogs. But nothing in the history of the planet approaches the scale of modern food waste, in farm fields, on streets and beaches, in landfills, and strewn behind fishing boats.
This abundance of garbage is also a factor in the resurgence of brown bears (population 17,000) and wolves (population 11,000) in modern Europe. Garbage is also the main reason leopards have been able to adapt to living in and around major cities in India. They prey on other animals that scavenge from abundant garbage — dogs, pigs, goats, and rats — and they also feed directly on butchered carcasses discarded in the open.
Cleaning up our food waste mess and shifting wildlife populations back to natural resources increases competition and ultimately “benefits higher quality individuals, so that’s good news. But, as it has been stated several times to get there it will be painful, just because educating and bringing awareness is a challenge in its-self.