To the UNEP : “The waste of a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes 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. “
1.3 billion tonnes of food ! This has profound repercussions on our world as it emits up to 3.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest, just behind the United States and China.
This also amounts to a staggering loss of no less than $750 billion – around 550 billion euros – as a third of the food produced globally goes to the bin uneaten.
All this while wasting a huge amount of water and is taking place as almost a billion people are still hungry every day.
The United Nations Environmental Program explains that the majority of the food waste takes place upstream, ie. during production, handling and storage. The remaining half – 46 percent – take place during processing, distribution and consumption.
How could we solve this problem ? Here is what the UNEP proposes :
High priority should be given to reducing food wastage in the first place. Beyond improving losses of crops on farms due to poor practices, doing more to better balance production with demand would mean not using natural resources to produce unneeded food in the first place.
In the event of a food surplus, re-use within the human food chain- finding secondary markets or donating extra food to feed vulnerable members of society- represents the best option. If the food is not fit for human consumption, the next best option is to divert it for livestock feed, conserving resources that would otherwise be used to produce commercial feedstuff.
Where re-use is not possible, recycling and recovery should be pursued: by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, compositing, and incineration with energy recovery allow energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste, representing a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills. (Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is a large producer of methane, a particularly harmful GHG.