Faces of Food Waste E11: Ugly Fruits and Vegetables

A majority of food waste is edible but wasted on cosmetic grounds. In the UK alone 25% of the apples, 20% of the onions, and 13% of the potatoes end up in the bin solely because they do not fit the beauty norm. Fruits and vegetables make up for the majority of food waste. About 40% of such are estimated to be ‘ugly’ goods (Dobson & Edmondson, 2019). Globally an amount of 20% is estimated to be rejected due to cosmetic reasons. That is one of five that gets tossed into the landfill. However, it is nutritious and edible. A lot of regional and biological goods don’t get sold because they do not look accordingly (Verbrauchszentrale, 2021).

The disposal of perfectly nutritious and edible products demands needlessly water, land, and energy resources for production and disposal. This means an increase in global warming and climate change for products that end up in landfills anyway (Hine, n.d.).

Not using chemical fertilizer often leads to more difficulties with selling. Reasons for ‘ugly’ vegetables and fruits are diverse. A reason could be not using chemicals or offering too many products. Fruits and vegetables that do not fit in the packaging also don’t get selected. Another reason can be small imperfections or issues resulting from extreme weather conditions and climate change. To arrive freshly and in good condition, many vegetables and fruits only have a short time span for transport and sale. Consequently, overproduction leads to food waste as well. Not being as fresh as others, fruits and vegetables often get wasted in the stores (Verbrauchszentrale, 2021).

Shying away from a “deformed” fruit or vegetable is pure aesthetic snobbery.” (Bobb, 2016)

Possibilities for individuals to change this, are to buy at a farmer’s market because they are more likely to offer the full range of fruits and vegetables. You can also ask your suppliers whether they offer only the ‘pretty’ ones. Some independent stores already sell imperfect products. Research for them or find their 'ugly' boxes. Some imperfect fruits and vegetables, but not all, are reused for juice or other products. This is only a small number though. Most end up in landfills causing harmful emissions like methane or carbon (foodwastefeast, n.d.). Organizations and stores are saving and selling cheap ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables.

Many farmers toss away imperfect products knowing they will not be bought anyways. Demand decides the offer! If more people demand non-perfect fruits and vegetables, stores will buy them and farmers will see a point in keeping them and will try to sell them. There are more and more organizations saving the ‘ugly’ goods. They buy them from the local farmers. Do some research, save some fruits and vegetables, AND save money (Bobb, 2016).


Bobb, B. (2016, March 28). A Double-Headed Carrot or a Dimpled Peach: Why You Should Buy “Ugly” Fruits and Vegetables. Vogue. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.vogue.com/article/ugly-produce-fruits-vegetables-food-waste-cooking

Dobson, M. C., & Edmondson, J. L. (2019, March 29). Ugly vegetables are a major cause of food waste. The Independent. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/ugly-vegetable-food-waste-fruit-vegetable-a8825311.html

foodwastefeast. (n.d.). Why We Waste: Ugly Food, Expiration Dates and More — Food Waste Feast. Food Waste Feast. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://foodwastefeast.com/why-we-waste-ugly-food-expiration-dates-and-more

Guardian. (2016, November 17). Ugly fruits and vegetables: why you have to learn to love them. The Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/17/ugly-fruit-vegetable-delivery-service-food-waste

Hine, K. (n.d.). Why You Should Purchase Ugly Fruit and Vegetables. Wanderlust. https://wanderlust.com/journal/purchase-ugly-fruit-vegetables/

Verbrauchszentrale. (2021, April 29). Landwirtschaft: Obst, Gemüse und Kartoffeln im Schönheitstest. Verbraucherzentrale. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/wissen/lebensmittel/auswaehlen-zubereiten-aufbewahren/landwirtschaft-obst-gemuese-und-kartoffeln-im-schoenheitstest-59573

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