Households generate more than half of the total food waste in the EU (47 million tonnes) with 70% of food waste arising at household, food service and retail (FUSIONS, 2016).
Globally, approximately a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted (FAO, 2011).
Causes of food waste
Food is lost or wasted along the whole food supply chain: on the farm, in processing and manufacture, in shops, in restaurants and canteens and in the home. The reasons for food waste vary widely and can be sector-specific.
Factors contributing to food waste include:
Insufficient shopping and meal planning and promotions like "buy one get one free" leading to too much food being purchased or prepared
Misunderstandings about the meaning of "best before" and "use by" date labels leading to edible foods being thrown away
Standardised portion sizes in restaurants and canteens
Difficulty in anticipating the number of customers (a problem for catering services);
Stock management issues for manufacturers and retailers
High quality standards (eg. for produce sold at retail)
Overproduction or lack of demand for certain products at certain times of the year; product and packaging damage (farmers and food manufacturing)
Inadequate storage/transport at all stages of the food chain
Underlying all these problems is an overall lack of awareness, by many actors, of the sheer scale of the problem, the possible solutions and the benefits that come from reducing food waste.
What can you do?
The EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste issued a set of key recommendations for action in food waste prevention to inspire and encourage public and private players to take action. The recommendations address action required at each stage of the food supply chain (including food redistribution) and include a set of horizontal or ‘cross-cutting’ recommendations, which often involve multiple actors and sectors.
Everyone can play a role in reducing food waste. Often with minimal effort, food waste can be reduced, saving money and helping to protect the environment. It might be a lot easier than you think! Check our communications materials for tips on how to save food and other practical information.
Companies which implement food waste reduction initiatives in their daily operations are bound to reap the financial benefits of their actions. After evaluating cost and benefit data for 1,200 business sites across 700 companies in 17 countries, researchers from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that for most companies, for every $1 invested in reducing food waste, they saved $14 or more.
The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste report by WRI and WRAP can be accessed here.
Governments should create enabling policy environments that stimulate food waste prevention and reduction initiatives, including economic incentives for application of the waste hierarchy (e.g. fiscal incentives for food donation). Food waste is a cross-cutting issue affecting different policy areas; therefore relevant public services should coordinate efforts and develop integrated action plans in order to tackle food waste effectively. Strengthening collaboration between all actors of the food supply chain is crucial; governments can facilitate such synergies in view of achieving more sustainable food systems.
Watch the video below to learn more about the food loss and waste related actions proposed in the Farm to Fork Strategy, adopted by the Commission in May 2020, for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system: