Reducing Food Loss and Waste for a Sustainable Food Future


GLOBE-Net, June 21, 2013 – It is estimated that by 2050 we’ll need to produce 60% more food to feed a projected global population of 9 billion people.

Our ability to feed this many people while advancing the economic and social well-being of the over 1 billion who are already malnourished represents a serious global challenge.

Yet today one out of every four calories of food produced is lost or wasted.

The solution is clear. We must produce more food and waste less of what we produce.

To approach this issue, the World Resources Institute (WRI), in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), recently released a working paper “Reducing Food Loss and Waste” as part of a World Resources Report on “Creating a Sustainable Food Future”.

The working paper draws upon research from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and explores strategies for governments, businesses, and households to reduce food loss and wastage in the shorty-term, and contains recommendations  to create a sustainable food future by 2050.

Global food loss and waste

On a global scale, about 4 billion tons of food is produced each year, yet nearly one-quarter of this remains uneaten. Further, according to FAO research in 2009, 32% of all food produced in the world, measured by weight, is lost or wasted annually which is approximately 24% when converted into calories.   [stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” width=”200″ bcolor=”add3d5″ bgcolor=”add3d5″ image=”null”]Each day, 1,520 calories per capita are being lost or wasted in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.[/stextbox]

More than the half of all food that is lost or wasted consists of cereals, such as wheat, maize, and rice. Restaurants, caterers, and households are responsible for 51% of food loss or waste in the developed world.


Serious impacts of food loss and waste are being felt economically and socially

The investment in wasted food reduces farmer incomes while costs to consumers are  rising. Environmentally, unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and the inefficient use of water and land also affect important natural ecosystems and the services they provide.

In fact, 3,300-5,600 mega tonnes of greenhouse gases are associated with the production of food which is eventually lost or wasted, a number equivalent to the US carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption in 2011.

The size of land used to produce food that is ultimately lost or wasted annually comprises 198 million hectares which is about the size of Mexico.

[stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” align=”right” width=”200″ bcolor=”add3d5″ bgcolor=”add3d5″ image=”null”]The average American family of four spends $1,600 annually on food that doesn’t get eaten.[/stextbox]

Taking into account these impacts related to food security, WRI’s report puts forward several recommendations for developed and developing countries for a sustainable food future.

Reducing Food Loss and Wasteprovides five general key recommendations to prevent food loss and waste:

  • Developing a food loss and waste protocol, a common global standard for measuring, monitoring, and reporting food loss and waste by governments and the private sector
  • Setting time-bound global, national, and corporate food loss and waste reduction targets that create a greater awareness and mobilize resources
  • Doubling the investment in the reduction of post-harvest losses in developing countries
  • Establishing agencies and organizations in developed countries responsible for reducing food waste
  • Accelerating and supporting collaborative initiatives, as SAVE FOOD or Think.Eat.Save, that bring together a wide range of private businesses, governments, and intergovernmental organizations to share their knowledge on how to tackle food loss and waste

The working paper also suggests simple, low-cost solutions for reducing food loss and waste immediately on two different levels, namely at the consumption stage (“close to the fork”), most significant for developed countries, and after the harvest and storage of food (“close to the farm”).

In developed countries, more than half of the food lost and wasted occurs “close to the fork” whereas about two-thirds of lost and wasted food in developing countries can be localized “close to the farm”.

Approaches “close to the fork”:

1. Better food date labels – Consumers are being confronted with several different date labels on the food they buy and may throw out food that is actually still good for consumption. As a solution, retailers could remove certain date labels that are only significant for them, e.g. the “sell-by” date label in the US.

2. Reduce portion sizes at restaurants and buffets to avoid people leaving full plates of menu items.

3. Launch consumer awareness campaigns that reveal how much food people actually waste, providing simple solutions for cutting down on that waste.

Approaches “close to the farm”

1. Improved, low-cost storage methods that cut food losses mainly caused by pests, spoilage and damage through transportation, frequently occurring at small-scale farmers. E.g. using a plastic crate instead of a plastic sack during transportation prevents bruising and squashing of the food.

2. Redistribution of food that never gets eaten, e.g. due grocers ordering too much, by giving it to food banks or similar outreach groups.

If action is being taken as recommended by this report, current rates of food loss and waste could be cut in half, leading to a shrinking gap between food available today and that needed in 2050 as well as to savings in water use, energy, pesticides and fertilizers.

Also, replicating and expanding current initiatives may lead to a reduction of the 1.3 billion tons of food lost or discarded worldwide each year, improving the global resource efficiency.

[stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” width=”200″ bcolor=”add3d5″ bgcolor=”add3d5″ image=”null”]In the developing world, 64% of food loss or waste occurs before the food is even processed or sent to the market. [/stextbox]

Regarding the current severe situation of the endangered food security, making efforts towards a sustainable food future by 2050 should be one of the major goals to achieve globally. WRI’s report “Reducing Food Loss and Waste” provides essential approaches to tackle this issue.

The entire report is available here:

More information on the World Resources Report is available here:

Globe 2014_white _logo _black _bg 1smallThe Future of Global Food Security will be a major topic at GLOBE 2014, the next in the celebrated GLOBE Series Conferences on the business of the environment taking place in Vancouver Canada, March 26-28, 2014. Reserve your place now. Check here for more details.


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