The UN has found that if we reduced the amount of food wasted globally, there would be enough food to feed everyone on the planet. One third of food that is produced globally is wasted, which equates to 1.3bn tonnes of food.
At the same time, 795 million people around the world suffer from food poverty. Food waste has come to the fore as a global issue and has been identified by the UN as one of the great challenges to achieving food security.
By 2050, it is estimated that food production will need to have increased by 60% on 2005 levels. We use land the size of China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan every year to grow food that is never eaten. This is about 1.4bn hectares, or close to 30% of available agricultural land. Growing food is extremely energy and water intensive. Reducing food waste would help to meet future demand and ease the burden on the world resources.
Food waste is also a huge contributor to climate change. The carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 gigatonnes of CO2. If food waste were a country it would rank as the third highest national emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
Where Food Waste Happens
In developing counties, food waste is highest at production and distribution stages and can be due to poor equipment, transportation and infrastructure. This is know as unintentional food waste.
In wealthy countries, there is less food wasted at this level but much higher food wasted at retail level and at consumer level, with between 30% and 40% of all food purchased by retailers and consumers being thrown away. On average, each person in Europe and North America wastes 95-115kg of otherwise edible food annually, while in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia the equivalent waste was just 6-11kg. In fact, the 222m tonnes of food a year that is wasted in industrialised countries is almost the same as the total net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
Counties with the highest amount of food waste include are the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where consumers waste 39% of all food purchased. In Europe, 31% of all food purchased by consumers is thrown away.
In a 2010 report, the European Commission stated that across EU member states, household food waste contributes the highest proportion of all the food that is wasted across the food supply chain.
In Ireland, the EPA are raising awareness about the problem of food waste in households through their Stop Food Waste programme. According to the EPA, in Ireland one million tonnes of food is wasted every year while one in ten people do not have enough food to eat. Irish households spend €700 per year on average on food that ends up in their bins!
60% of household food waste is avoidable and includes things like plate scrapings, leftovers, and unused fruit and veg. Some foods are thrown out more than others. The biggest victim is salads. We throw out 50% of all salads, 25% of the fruit and veg, 20% of all bread and 10% of the meat and dairy that we buy.
What is happening Globally to tackle food waste?
The good news is that food waste is recognised as a major problem and there are some very exciting projects happening to tackle food waste, from community shops, to surplus food cafes, to food redistribution projects to gleaning networks. Many of these projects are happening at grass roots and community level and also serving to bring people together and strengthen local connections.
There have been well publicised attempts to to combat the loss of food – such as recent laws in France. These laws require supermarkets to donate their surplus food to charity. Any food no longer fit for human consumption must be processed into animal feed or compost.
What is FoodCloud doing?
FoodCloud works with retailers in Ireland, connecting them with charities in their local community so that they can donate their fresh surplus food products on a daily basis. We are currently working with over 100 Tesco stores across the country and we are working at a pilot stage with other major retailers.
Since launching in October 2013 we have received great support from the food industry. In our experience, the people who work with food especially hate to see good food going to waste and are looking for solutions for this problem. So far 604 tonnes of food has been redistributed across 26 counties in Ireland, which equates to 1,330,000 meals and a carbon saving of 1,935,000 tonnes of CO2.
Source: The Guardian