Picturing food waste

According to a UN study, one third of the world’s food goes to waste – meanwhile, 925 million people around the world are threatened by starvation.

These two facts are what drove Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler to create a photo essay examining just what food waste looks like.

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STRAWBERRIES

Place of production: San Giovanni Lupatoto, Verona, Italy

Cultivation method: Foil green house * Time of harvest: June – October

Transporting distance: 741 km * Means of transportation: Truck

Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0.35 kg * Water requirement (total) per kg: 348 l

Price: 7.96 € / kg

Pichler writes in his project statement:

The immediate idea behind this series was to picture food products at different stages of decay in order to highlight the issue of food waste. This waste is strongly linked to the culture industry and therefore also to people’s ways of life, especially in industrial nations. In the photographs, this is made obvious through the combination of food with accessories of the culture industry focused around food (e.g. dishes, cutlery). Therefore, the pictured food items are portrayed as part of a European culinary culture and history. This culture is closely intertwined with the history of exploitation of European colonies and, as a result, the import of cheap food products from other continents.

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PRE- FRIED VEGETABLE STICKS

Place of production: Reken, Germany

Production method: Factory production * Time of production: All- season

Transporting distance: 1,030 km * Means of transportation: Refridgerated truck

Carbon footprint (total) per kg: unknown * Water requirement (total) per kg: unknown

Price: 11.96 € / kg

Pichler says the largest amount of food waste occurs in industrialized countries in the Northern hemisphere. Lower income countries, he says, see food loss predominantly during harvesting, or as the result of infrastructural problems.

However in Europe and North America, food waste happens when grocery stores throw out food for superficial flaws, or shoppers simply never get around to eating what they’ve bought.

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WATER MELON

Place of production: Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante, Spain

Cultivation method: Outdoor plantantion * Time of harvest: June – August

Transporting distance: 2,442 km * Means of transportation: Truck

Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0.54 kg * Water requirement (total) per kg: 1490 l

Price: 0.99 € / kg

Pichler not only photographed items of food as they decayed, he calculated how far they traveled to be sold, and how much energy and water had been spent growing and delivering them to the grocery store in Vienna where he purchased them.

Listen to a conversation about food waste

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TOMATOES

Place of production: Albenga, Italy

Cultivation method: Foil green house * Time of harvest: All- season

Transporting distance: 1,035 km * Means of transportation: Truck

Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0.31 kg * Water requirement (total) per kg: 215 l

Price: 0.89 € / kg

Since releasing his photo essay, Pichler’s images have gone viral on the internet, showing up on Finnish and Chinese websites, as well as on the Huffington Post and National Public Radio’s food blog.

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BANANAS

Place of production: Mao Valverde, Dominican Republic

Cultivation method: Outdoor plantation * Time of harvest: All- season

Transporting distance: 8500km (linear distance) * Means of Transportation: Ship, Truck

Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 1.61 kg * Water requirement (total) per kg: 643 l

Price: 1.49€ / kg

So what do you think of the images? Are they repulsive? Beautiful? Both?

The power of the photograph is that, when done well, it can make people look at something for a long time, and really think about the subject.

Could these images make you rethink your grocery shopping habits?

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PINEAPPLE

Place of production: Guayaquil, Ecuador

Cultivation method: Outdoor plantation * Time of harvest: All- season

Transporting distance: 10,666 km (linear distance) * Means of transportation: Aircraft, truck

Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 11.94 kg * Water requirement (total) per kg: 360 l

Price: 2.10 € / kg

All photos credit: Klaus Pichler

  • phillip

    They are beautiful, and will make me think more about leftovers and how much I get at a time. Also makes me think of my grandparents who were loathe to let anything go to waste.