In 2016, the UN announced a global effort that seeks to reduce food waste; more specifically, the goal is to half food waste levels by 2030. The organisation estimated that one-third of all food was lost or wasted worldwide, even though 800 million people are undernourished.
We have already discussed ways to reduce food waste, such as how better labelling and packaging can contribute to less waste. Now, we are looking into how decreasing the amount of waste produced throughout the whole supply chain is beneficial on a global scale.
Food waste also impacts the environment and contributes to climate change. WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) says that food waste is responsible for 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which is 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year.
By preventing one tonne of food waste from ending up in a landfill, we can prevent approximately 5 tonnes of CO2e from being emitted.
A 2013 FAO report estimated that 1.4 billion hectares of land, which is 28% of the total global agricultural area, as well as 250km3 of blue water, are used to produce food that is then wasted. Sustainable approaches to food production can decrease this waste and reduce the carbon footprint of food manufacturing.
After all, it is believed that a solution to food waste lies in adopting a “sustainable production and consumption approach throughout the global food supply chain”.
Reducing food loss and waste has financial benefits for businesses as well. After all, according to the UN, food waste adds up to a cost of $940 billion a year, a staggering figure. Just in the UK, the manufacturing and retail sector is estimated to waste 1.9 million tonnes of food a year worth £1.9 billion.
According to WRAP, grocery retail food waste costs £3,100 per tonne, manufacturing waste costs £1,200 per tonne, and packaging waste costs £1,600 per tonne. By targeting these areas and investing in more sustainable solutions, costs are likely to reduce.
This has already been proven. An analysis of 1,200 sites across 700 companies in 17 countries around the world reports that 99% of sites had a positive ROI when it came to investing in food loss and waste reduction programs. Some sites even reported that, for every £1 or $1 invested, they achieved 14 times more return on their investment.
Food Security Benefits
As we have mentioned, around 800 million people go hungry. A 2013 paper also estimates that 30% to 50% of all food produced on the planet is lost before “reaching a human stomach”.
By ensuring the reduction of food waste, we could potentially feed globally everyone suffering from malnutrition. By reducing the tonnes of food going to waste every year, most of it avoidable, we can expect that food security will improve.
Food loss and waste is a global concern and tackling it will bring a wealth of benefits to the environment, manufacturers and distributors, and people.
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