UN Agencies: About 1.3 Billion Tonnes of Food Wasted Yearly

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New research from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, already being discussed, provides a bleak picture of global food waste. It finds that one-third of all food produced is wasted each year. This equates to nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year, enough to feed billions of hungry people. Or, more precisely, this wasteful food could feed all 811 million hungry people twice.

The research, titled “Food Waste Index 2023: Flip the Food Waste, Flip the Future,” urges governments, businesses, and individuals to immediately eliminate food waste throughout the food supply chain, from production to consumption.

Food wasted at various levels

The report analyses food waste at various levels of the supply chain.

Pre-retail stage (14%): This includes losses from production, post-harvest handling, and storage. Factors such as insufficient infrastructure, inappropriate harvesting procedures, and a lack of storage facilities contribute to waste.

Retail and consumer segments (17%): Outdated food at supermarkets, rotting at home, and leftovers contribute to this massive waste.

Food waste deprives consumers of essential nutrients and wastes valuable resources utilised in food production. According to the analysis, the water footprint of wasted food equals the yearly water flow of all Russian rivers. In addition, wasted food emits greenhouse gases equal to 8% of total human-caused emissions, greatly contributing to climate change.

The next step
The paper lists several essential initiatives required to combat food waste. This includes:

Improved food production practices: This includes investing in better storage and transportation facilities and implementing sustainable farming methods to prevent post-harvest losses.

Improved food distribution and marketing: By promoting successful food donation programmes, streamlining supply chains, and better forecasting customer demand to reduce retail waste.

Consumer behaviour change: It involves raising awareness about food waste and encouraging people to practise meal planning, ethical buying, and safe food storage.

More robust government policies: This includes programmes that incentivise food waste reduction, such as food waste taxes or extended producer responsibility programmes.

Need for a global effort
The UN report highlights the need for a global effort to combat food waste. Developed countries with greater per capita food waste rates bear a special obligation to take action.

However, multi-stakeholder engagement amongst all countries is essential.

Food waste minimisation is a shared duty. Deciding action to decrease food waste can ensure a more secure and sustainable food system for future generations. This guarantees that everyone has access to the food they need while reducing the environmental effect of food production, paving the way for a healthy planet.

Source: ESG Times

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