Artificial intelligent chatbots recently became famous, known to generate human-like responses to questions or statements. They are trained on a large dataset of text from the Internet. Thus, they show a converged internet opinion. I became curious to talk to ChatGPT about the food waste topic. Here, I will present you with a summary of our talk. It will be a summary because talking to ChatGPT is like talking to an encyclopedia. I am confident I can write a dissertation from the responses it gave me because they were very long and detailed.
How significant is the problem of food waste?
At first, I was curious if AI shared my view on food waste being a huge problem for humanity. It did. ChatGPT immediately acknowledged the significance of the problem, naming it a major contributor to climate change and the associated environmental and social impacts. To prove the point, ChatGPT bombarded me with statistics. For example, we lose or waste a third of produced food globally. This food ends up in a landfill, producing methane, contributing 8% to global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it amounts to $940 billion annually lost in value.
Why does food waste occur?
These outrageous numbers led to my next question – why does food waste occur? ChatGPT gave me multiple reasons: overproduction, food spoilage, consumer behavior, lack of understanding of expiration dates, aesthetic standards, and lack of infrastructure to transport food. I was surprised to learn that food spoilage is the number one contributor to food waste. Food spoilage occurs when food becomes inedible or unsafe to consume before it is eaten for various reasons, including improper storage, handling, or transportation, as well as a lack of understanding of expiration dates and food safety guidelines. Food spoilage can occur at any point in the food supply chain, from production and distribution to retail and consumer levels. It is estimated that up to 40% of food waste in developed countries is due to food spoilage.
How to solve the problem of food waste?
Of course, I wanted to know if ChatGPT has ideas for addressing the problem. At first, ChatGPT gave me a list of things to do on an individual level, and only when later I explicitly asked what companies or governments could do it add suggestions for them. This bias may be because, on the Internet, individuals more often than companies ask questions about how to reduce their food waste. Thus, ChatGPT assumed that when such a question appeared, I wanted to know how to help the situation.
Individual level. On a personal level, ChatGPT mentioned the following 6 ideas shown on the diagram.
Interestingly, AI also added composting as an option for reducing food waste (not included in the diagram). Unfortunately, it is not, making it the first inaccuracy in AI’s responses in our conversation. Food waste is the food produced for consumption but not consumed. Composting can not change that; however, it is a helpful method of creating nutrient-rich soil for gardening.
Big players. On the other hand, companies can
- improve supply chain management by reducing overproduction, improving inventory management, and optimizing transportation and logistics.
- standardize expiration dates,
- implement donation programs for excess food, and more.
Governments also have a lot of power in this matter. Setting national or regional targets for food waste reduction can create a sense of urgency and commitment to addressing the problem. They can establish regulations and policies and support donation programs or food waste initiatives. Then, the sky is the limit.
Why do not we implement the strategies listed above?
One of the crucial reasons, according to ChatGPT, is a need for more awareness. Companies and government officials need to fully understand the scale and impact of food waste or the potential benefits of reducing it. Low awareness is due to a lack of incentives. Disposing of excess food is cheaper than finding ways to redistribute or repurpose it. It is because reducing food waste requires significant changes to the infrastructure of the food system, such as improvements to transportation, storage, and processing facilities. These changes can be expensive and time-consuming and require significant public and private investment. Thus, leaders may prioritize other issues over food waste reduction or want to avoid taking actions perceived as too costly or unpopular.
What is the future of food waste?
ChatGPT was very careful in his predictions, saying it is challenging. Indeed, addressing the food waste crisis will require significant changes across the entire food system, from production and distribution to retail and consumer behavior. It will require a shift in values and priorities towards sustainability, reducing waste, and investments in new technologies and infrastructure. While the food waste crisis is a complex and multifaceted problem, ChatGPT is optimistic that we can overcome it. We can work towards a future where food waste is significantly reduced or eliminated with continued innovation, collaboration, and commitment to creating a more sustainable and equitable food system.
Overall, I found it entertaining to chat with an AI. Even though there were many inaccuracies in its responses, its general view of the issue aligns with mine. So, if I know that food waste is a big problem and AI knows that it is a problem, why do we still have people in governments who do not realize it? But I leave this question for you, dear readers. What is your answer? Leave it in the comments.
Written by Marina Shimchenko.
One thought on “A dialog with an AI about food waste.”
I love the article! Thanks for sharing your experience with an AI!!