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Facts you need to know about food waste

Understand why food waste is a problem for the climate, water, land and biodiversity and much more.

Flavia Garcia

Reflora Initiative

Published: April 28, 2022


Putting too much food on the plate and throwing it in the rubbish; discarding fruit and vegetable peels, which are sources rich in fibre; or storing ingredients incorrectly. These are just a few actions that contribute to the fact that about one third of the food produced on the planet is wasted every year, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

When we throw away our food, we are not only wasting a precious commodity that not everyone has access to. We are also in fact harming the planet.

This our irresponsible behaviour also contributes to the release of 3.300 millions tonnes of greenhouse gases into the planet’s atmosphere, representing 8-10% of total emissions.

Food production occupies 25% of the habitable territory on Earth. A part of this area, equivalent to the size of Mexico, is used to grow those products that will be thrown away.

This our irresponsible behaviour also contributes to the release of 3.300 millions tonnes of greenhouse gases into the planet’s atmosphere, representing 8-10% of total emissions.

The gases are generated in different ways, but a large number of them are related to the food sector. Activities such as agriculture and livestock farming are responsible for a large part of these gases.

From the plantation field to the family table, 1.3 billion tons of food receive the same destination: waste. On the other hand, is estimated that 690 million people go hungry around the world during 2019.

Wasting food means wasting natural resources that humanity needs in order to feed itself.

Water, energy and the land on which food is grown all suffer from overexploitation, which also has negative effects on the biodiversity of natural species.

The energy used to produce food also generates polluting emissions. And overconsumption of electricity has environmental consequences.

The food system consumes 30% of the world’s available energy.

What is more serious is that 70% of this energy is spent just on transporting, processing, packaging and storing food. It is therefore extremely important to focus on the consumption of fresh and local products.

A UN investigation identified that most of this waste comes from households, which discard 11% of the total food available at the consumption stage of the supply chain, and that the majority of this waste comes from domestic waste.

Considering the number of hungry people in the world, and all that is associated with this waste, it is “unacceptable” that this continues to happen. Therefore, the United Nations has identified responsible production and consumption as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, SDG 12.

This goal focuses on responsible production and consumption, and in one of its targets is to reduce food loss and waste by half by 2030. This objective also ensures that sustainable consumption and production practices are guaranteed.

In a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which examined food waste in 54 countries, the researchers came to one of the most striking conclusions of their study: household waste levels are similar in high-income, upper-middle-income and lower-middle-income countries.

Faced with such abundant waste, the governments of some countries have shown competence in transforming the waste culture in their countries.

As an example, Nigeria is one of the world’s most food-wasteful countries, wasting 189 kilos of food per capita per year. In Rwanda, the figure is similar, at 164 kilos per capita. The Netherlands and Belgium, on the other hand, waste 50 kilos per capita per year, while the US wastes 59 kilos per capita per year. No longer is this a problem only for rich countries, where consumers simply buy more than they can eat. It is now also a problem in developing countries.

Faced with such abundant waste, the governments of some countries have shown competence in transforming the waste culture in their countries. France, for example, validated a law that forbids supermarkets from throwing out unpurchased food, under penalty of a fine of around €75,000 meanwhile, has opened an establishment dedicated exclusively to selling products that have expired but can still be consumed.

Here is some relevant data on waste, take a look:

– According to data from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 84% of the food that is thrown away has not even passed through the frying pan, but is thrown straight out of the fridge. This statistic shows that about 1300 million kilos of food are wasted every year.

  • Livestock account for a quarter of methane emissions, making reducing meat consumption one of important tips from experts to reduce emissions.
  • 53% of total food waste in the EU occurs in domestic households, 19% in food processing, 12% in food service and catering, 11% in primary production, and 5% in wholesale and retail, according to the European Parliament study.
  • If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, behind only China and the United States.
  • An average family in the UK wastes around 825€ in food each year. That’s around 65€ a month in food that is not consumed.
  • In Brazil, 15 million tons of food are discarded every year, which would feed the entire Brazilian population for 47 days, as estimated by the Akatu Institute.

Reducing the amount of food that goes to waste every day may not seem an easy task but if there is a collective awareness and if each person does their part in the daily routine we know that this task becomes possible.

Simple measures contribute greatly to combating waste from the moment of purchase to preparation.

– Take a look and adopt more conscious practices in your home too, check it out:

– Shop well: make a list to go to the supermarket knowing in advance what to buy.

– Store well: keep food in clean places and at the right temperature for each ingredient.

– Clean properly: all fruits, vegetables, peels, stalks, seeds and leaves should be washed one by one under running water.

– Cook well: be creative when preparing: don’t throw away unconventional parts, use them in your own or other recipes. Prepare only the necessary amount for each meals.

– Composting: this is a sustainable technique in which inputs are deposited in a compost bin and transformed into organic fertiliser.

By reducing food waste, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land destruction and pollution, increase food availability and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

Reflora invites you to change this world scenario, let’s make it possible.

 

By Flávia Garcia, Marketing and Media.