The UN describes food waste as produce ‘of good quality [that’s] fit for consumption’ but ‘doesn't get consumed because it is discarded’. Shockingly, 68% of the food that’s produced around the world doesn’t make it to the consumer - this is all classed as food waste.
Food loss happens if there are issues when it is being grown or stored - or even while it’s being processed or distributed. Food waste, however, tends to happen more at the retailer’s or consumer’s end.
So many things can contribute to this, and many of us do it without even realising it. But, reasons can include having too much food - if you don’t get round to eating all those apples, for example, or if you accidentally cook too much for dinner - ‘discrimination’ against food that has a stange shape or might look a little funny, and just a general lack of knowledge about food waste and the issues surrounding it, like knowing the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates.
Shockingly, one third of food that gets produced globally is wasted - that’s around 1.3 billion tonnes. The UN also estimates that 45% of the fruit and veg that is globally produced is wasted along the supply chain. In fact, between 20% and 40% of ‘ugly’ produce is thrown away before even leaving the farm because they don’t meet the market’s aesthetic standards. In total, nearly half of all the fruit and veg that are produced every year is wasted.
On average, a consumer in Europe and North America wastes between 95kg and 115kg per year. In Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, it’s only between 6kg and 11kg.
At the moment it’s Australia where, on average, consumers waste around 102kg of food every year.
Currently, France is reported to be wasting the least amount of food.
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The UAE ranks highly, with around 38% of the food that’s prepared every day being wasted. Unfortunately, this jumps up to 60% during Ramadan.
Food waste has a huge impact on the environment because, for every fruit and vegetable that’s wasted, the land, water, energy and resources that went into growing it is wasted too. On top of that, landfill sites are a huge producer of methane, and the food waste itself releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Believe it or not, if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter in the world, behind the US and China.
There are so many ways we can help. The simplest is by using good storage practices - we can get technology to help with this too. Composting and recycling is another great solution, and we can even donate or share food rather than letting it go to waste.
Everyone from consumers to restaurants and retailers can begin using technology that’ll help store extra food and keep an eye on their expiry dates. We can also put measures in place to prevent us buying more than we need.
One of the main things people can do to help is to raise awareness, then lead by example, living more sustainably and buying from more responsible companies.