In 2019, we wasted an estimated 931 million tonnes of food, according to research conducted by the United Nations as part of an effort to find ways to halve food waste by 2030. This means that 17% of all food available in 2019 ended up in the bin.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partner organisation WRAP have just published the Food Waste Index Report 2021, which measures food waste in private homes as well as restaurants, supermarkets and other retail outlets. The data includes all the food that’s not sold in supermarkets and restaurants and everything we buy but never eat.
This report represents the most up-to-date and thorough analysis when it comes to food waste. It also offers a methodology for other countries to measure food waste so that results can be compared. For 2021, the report includes data from 54 countries, with more expected to join in the future.
In nearly every country analysed, food waste is a serious problem. Most of the waste comes from households, which put in the bin 11% of the food they buy. Supermarkets and restaurants tend to waste less food but still add up to 5% and 2%, respectively. All combined, this represents a staggering 121kg of food wasted in 2019, with over 70 kilograms coming from private residences.
What was surprising in this report was that similar results were measured in almost every country, regardless of income. “For a long time, it was assumed that food waste in the home was a significant problem only in developed countries,” said Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP. “With the publication of the Food Waste Index report, we see that things are not so clear cut”.
Not surprisingly, excessive amounts of food wasted can have severe effects on the environment. At a time when we’re still struggling to take action with regards to climate change, food waste accounts for an incredible 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing food waste would not only cut greenhouse gas emissions but also save money for most households during the current global recession. It would also help the 690 million people going hungry in 2019 and the three billion people on a low income who cannot afford to buy a healthy diet. Reducing food waste has got to be one of our priorities in the future.
“Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
“If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste. The UN Food Systems Summit this year will provide an opportunity to launch bold new actions to tackle food waste globally.”
This week – 1st to 7th March 2021 – WRAP has launched the UK’s first national Food Waste Action Week. The aim is to bring together consumers and organisations from hospitality, retail and manufacturing to show how waste food affects people and our planet.