Almost 1 Billion Tons of Food Is Wasted Each Year, U.N. Report Finds

The United Nations has found that more than 900 million tons of food were wasted in 2019. The problem is pervasive, with food waste occurring at every step of the food chain worldwide.
Mar. 17, 2021
Costas Vasilopoulos

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A report pub­lished by the United Nations esti­mates that 17 per­cent of the food pro­duced glob­ally – around 930 mil­lion tons – is thrown away each year.

The quan­tity of food wasted is enough to load 23 mil­lion 40-ton trucks, equal to seven times the Earth’s perime­ter when lined-up.

If we want to get seri­ous about tack­ling cli­mate change… busi­nesses, gov­ern­ments and cit­i­zens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste.- Inger Andersen, exec­u­tive direc­tor, U.N. Environment Program

The research spanned 54 coun­tries around the world in 2019. Households were found respon­si­ble for most of the waste, account­ing for 61 per­cent of the food dumped. In com­par­i­son, the food­ser­vice and the food retail sec­tors accounted for 26 per­cent and 13 per­cent, respec­tively.

Food is also lost on the farms and in the sup­ply chains, the report stated. Overall, approx­i­mately one-third of the food pro­duced glob­ally is never con­sumed.

See Also: U.N. World Food Program Wins 2020 Nobel Peace Prize

However, global food waste is dif­fi­cult to mea­sure since most coun­tries lack sub­stan­tial data to pin­point the prob­lem.

Many coun­tries haven’t yet quan­ti­fied their food waste, so they don’t under­stand the scale of the prob­lem,” said Clementine O’Connor of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) and co-author of the report.

In 2019, around 690 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide were affected by hunger, the U.N. said, and the COVID-19 pan­demic is expected to make things worse.

In advance, food waste takes a heavy toll on the envi­ron­ment. Almost 10 per­cent of the global car­bon emis­sions are asso­ci­ated with dumped or lost food in the food sup­ply chain, an amount equiv­a­lent to the emis­sions of road trans­ports.

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,” Inger Andersen, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UNEP, said.

Another alarm­ing find­ing of the research was that food waste not only occurs in devel­oped coun­tries but also in least-devel­oped coun­tries and devel­op­ing coun­tries.

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, a cir­cu­lar econ­omy char­ity that worked together with the United Nations to pro­duce the report. With the pub­li­ca­tion of the Food Waste Index report, we see that things are not so clear cut.”

Through their work, the researchers are urg­ing nations to reduce the loss of food in homes.

With only nine years to go, we will not achieve SDG 12 Target 3 [reduce food waste by 50 per­cent at the con­sumer level by the year 2030] if we do not sig­nif­i­cantly increase invest­ment in tack­ling food waste in the home glob­ally,” Gover said.

This must be a pri­or­ity for gov­ern­ments, inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tions, busi­nesses and phil­an­thropic foun­da­tions,” he con­cluded.





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