The world threw away almost seventeen percent of food available to consumers in 2019, the UN recently reported. Almost 1 billion tons was thrown away by households, retailers, institutions and the hospitality industry.
“The scale of the problem is just huge,” said Richard Swannell, development director of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the non-profit that co-authored the special report. “This is costly environmentally, socially and economically,” he noted.
The report that covers three quarters of humanity and 54 countries – poor, middle income and rich – with good enough data to ensure robust findings, challenged two widely held views on where food waste is concentrated.
“Our report shows that for every country that has measured food waste, household food waste is a global problem,” said co-author Clementine O’Connor, an expert at the UN Environment Programme’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme.
While efforts to avoid food waste obviously have to be scaled up, the problem of what to do with whatever unused or unusable biowaste is left over remains. One place it should not go to is landfills, where it emits the powerful greenhouse gas methane and serves no productive purpose.
There are many alternatives to burying biowaste, including donating food that is still edible, processing it for animal feed, composting, and biogas production.
In a world where nearly 700 million people go to bed hungry every night and where global warming is a serious concern, the problem of food waste has not gotten enough attention from government and the private sector. Any successful reduction in food waste can result in less people going hungry and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
It is high time we became more aware of the impact of food waste on the planet and start doing something about it.*