08 04 2019

Food waste reduction: our joint responsibility

The reduction of food waste has become especially relevant in recent years, when we have started facing the devastating environmental impact and unfair social inequalities linked to unsustainable development. It was in 2015 when the United Nations established 17 new sustainable development goals and included responsible production and consumption as goal number 12 of this list. In the EU, an estimated 20% of the total food produced is lost or wasted, while 43 million people cannot afford a quality meal every second day, according to the EU Portal on Food Waste.

Food waste: more than an ethical or an economical concern

This is not only an ethical issue or an economical concern, but also an important challenge for our environment and our natural resources, which are essential to guarantee our existence and the continuation of many other species. Extensive food production has direct consequences in the quality of air, land and water resources, all three vital for any living organism. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), explains that if food waste was considered a country, it would be the third top emitter of CO2 after USA and China. The surface of land used to produce this food is equivalent to nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural land area. A considerable amount of water is also used to produce uneaten food: globally, the blue water footprint of food wastage is about 250 km3, which is approximately the annual water discharge of the Volga river.

Impact across the food chain

If we analyse things from a socio-economic perspective, food loss and waste in industrialised countries are as high as in developing countries, but their distribution is different. In developing countries, over 40% of food losses happen after harvest and during processing. In industrialised countries, over 40% occurs at retail and consumer level.

Be it in industrialised or in developing countries, all actors in the food chain have a role to play in preventing and reducing food waste, from those who produce and process foods to those who make foods available for consumption and ultimately consumers themselves. If you have reached these lines wondering yourself what can be your individual impact in food waste, we have some figures to show you: households generate more than half of the total food waste in the EU (47 million tonnes). 70% of food waste arises at household, food service and retail, according to the study produced in the framework of the FUSIONS project carried out in 2016.