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Resource Efficiency

New report reveals significant environmental impacts of wasting food


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has released a report that for the first time analyses the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective. The report, entitled ‘Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources’, reveals that the loss of land, water and biodiversity related to food loss and wastage, as well as the negative impacts of climate change, are having considerable impacts on society. Read more...

The UN organisation estimates that approximately one-third of all food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted – amounting to around 1.3 billion tonnes per year. This is not only causing major economic losses (estimated at $750 billion annually), but also significant harm to the earth’s natural resources. The research addresses two central issues - the magnitude of food wastage impacts on the environment, and the main sources of these impacts in terms of regions, commodities and stages of the supply chain.

The report says a combination of consumer behaviour and lack of communication in the supply chain underlies the higher levels of food waste in affluent societies. Consumers fail to plan their shopping, buy too much, or over-react to best-before-dates. Quality and aesthetic standards also lead retailers to reject large amounts of perfectly edible food. A key problem in developing countries is significant post-harvest losses in the early part of the supply chain. This is the result of financial and structural limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and transport infrastructure, combined with climactic conditions that lead to food spoilage.

The report is accompanied by a toolkit containing recommendations on how food loss and waste can be reduced at each stage of the food chain and details three general levels where action is needed. It says high priority should be given to reducing food wastage and balancing production with demand. In the event of a food surplus, re-use within the human food chain should be explored, including finding secondary markets, donating extra food to vulnerable members of society or diverting food unfit for human consumption to livestock feed.  Where re-use is not possible, the report recommends recycling and recovery, for example through anaerobic digestion, compositing, and incineration with energy recovery.  

Find more info:

Press release  

Full report: Food Wastage Footprint: Impact on Natural Resources

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