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Education17% of all food available globally is wasted

17% of all food available globally is wasted

Published: 5th Mar 2021 3:03 pm

An estimated 931 million tonnes of food, or 17% of total food available to consumers in 2019, went into the waste bins of households, retailers, restaurants and other food services, according to new UN research conducted to support global efforts to halve food waste by 2030. The weight roughly equals that of 23 million fully loaded 40-tonne trucks — bumper-to-bumper, enough to circle the Earth seven times.

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The Food Waste Index Report 2021, from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partner organization WRAP, looks at food waste that occurs in retail outlets, restaurants and homes. The report presents the most comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis and modelling to date, and offers a methodology for countries to measure food waste. 152 food waste data points were identified in 54 countries.

The report finds that in nearly every country that has measured food waste, it was substantial, regardless of income level. It shows that most of this waste comes from households, which discard 11% of the total food available at the consumption stage of the supply chain.

Impact of food wastage

Food services and retail outlets waste 5% and 2% respectively. On a global per capita-level, 121 kilograms of consumer level food is wasted each year, with 74 kilograms of this happening in households. The report also includes regional and national per capita estimates.

Food waste has substantial environmental, social and economic impacts. For example, at a time when climate action is still lagging, 8%-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed, when losses before consumer level are taken into account.

Reducing food waste to fight hunger

Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession says UNEP.

With 690 million people affected by hunger in 2019, a number expected to rise sharply with Covid-19, and three billion people unable to afford a healthy diet, consumers need help to reduce food waste at home.

Countries can raise climate ambition by including food waste in Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, while strengthening food security and cutting costs to households. This makes food waste prevention also a primary area for inclusion in Covid-19 recovery strategies.

A global problem

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 12.3 aims at halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains. One of the two indicators for the target is the Food Waste Index.

A growing number of countries have measured food waste in recent years. The reports finds that 14 countries already have household food waste data collected in a way that is compatible with the Food Waste Index.

Alarming numbers

• Food wasted in 2019 is 931 million tonnes of food sold to households, retailers, restaurants
• Study finds food waste is a global problem, not just that of developed world
• Food Waste Index report helps countries track progress on UN Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste by 2030


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