Food waste harms The world we live in The waste of a staggering 1.3 billion tons of food per year is not only causing major economic losses but also wreaking significant harm on the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed itself, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

Among its key findings:

Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere.

In addition to its environmental impacts, the direct economic consequences to producers of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) cost $750 billion annually, FAO’s report estimates.

“We all - farmers and fishers; food processers and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers - must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

“In addition the environmental imperative, there is a moral one: We simply cannot allow one third of all the food we produce to go to waste, when 870 million people go hungry every day, said FAO Director - General José Graziano da Silva.


Where wastage happens: Fifty-four percent of the world’s food wastage occurs “upstream” during production, post-harvest handling and storage, according to FAO’s study.  Forty-six percent of it happens “downstream,” at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

What can we do?

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said:”UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss-food wastage-as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy.

Joining farmers together in cooperatives or professional associations can greatly help reduce food losses by increasing their understanding of the market, enabling more efficient planning, enabling economies of scale and improving their ability to market what they produce.

On the retail and consumer side, raising awareness of the problem - and how to prevent just as important. Businesses and households alike need to implement better monitoring to improve data on the scale of wastage and where it occurs. Business - both those operating within the food chain as well as others with a large “food footprint” (large cafeterias, for instance) - can conduct food waste audits to determine how and why they waste food and identify opportunities to improve their performance. Better communication among all participants in food supply chains will be crucial. In particular, there is vast room for improving communication between suppliers and retailers to match demand and supply.

Discrepancies between demand and supply are a major cause of food wastage. They can involve farmers not finding a market for products and leaving them to rot in the field; mothers cooking for five family members while only three actually make it to dinner; supermarkets downsizing product orders at the last minute, leaving producers with unsalable products; or restaurants overestimating demand and overstocking food supplies that go bad. 

Source: unep.org