10 Facts You Might Not Know About Food Waste

World Environment Day (WED) is a day to remember that the Earth’s natural resources are limited, and to celebrate positive environmental actions that protect those resources. Food waste—which represents a third of all food produced globally—is a major area where the Earth’s resources could be used more responsibly. The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) hopes to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2020 through the Milan Protocol.

According to Riccardo Valentini, a professor at the Università della Tuscia and BCFN Advisory Board member, “climate change…will contribute to increasing global food prices within a range of 3-84 percent by 2050, posing a serious threat to food production and security. Currently, over 800 million people are suffering from severe malnutrition worldwide and about 36 million die from lack of food. Successfully dealing with the issue of food access is therefore the great challenge for the coming years.”

“Food waste has a negative impact on the environment, on the economy, on food security and on nutrition,” affirms Ludovica Principato, a Ph.D candidate in Management at the La Sapienza University of Rome and a BCFN Foundation researcher.

BCFN advocates intervention throughout the entire food supply chain, from farmers to processing, and from distribution companies to the end user, in order to prevent waste. Before food is even purchased, losses occur due to improper handling, quality deterioration during transport, and inadequate infrastructure for cooling and storage. Fruit and vegetables losses during this stage have been estimated at 2-20 percent in developed countries, and at 24-40 percent in developing countries. High levels of waste result in higher prices for the final product, which could contribute to lower consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The retail level is also responsible for rejecting shipments of edible food that doesn’t meet visual or size standards. A 2011 report estimated 20 percent of initial food production is lost from products not meeting grading requirements in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Latin America. Fortunately, consumers are supermarkets around the world are changing these standards to accept ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables and prevent food waste.

Household food waste is another major concern in the developed world. Consumers in high-income countries discard up to 30 percent of fruit and vegetable purchases and trim products up to 33 percent by weight during household preparation. Furthermore, waste from food packaging is unlikely to be recycled at the household level, having been the least affected category by the four-fold increase in recycling since 1990.

By learning how to reuse leftover food to feed humans and animals, and lastly, to produce energy and compost, food waste can become a valuable input to close nutrient cycles. On WED 2015, join Food Tank and BCFN in protecting the Earth’s natural resources from farm to fork by putting an end to food waste around the world.

Here are 10 facts you might not know about food waste:

  1. 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year
  2. This amounts to US$1 trillion dollars of wasted or lost food
  3. If wasted food was a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, after the United States and China
  4. Just one quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger
  5. Food waste in rich countries (222 million tons) is approximately equivalent to all of the food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons)
  6. A European or North American consumer wastes almost 100 kilograms of food annually, which is more than his or her weight (70 kilograms)
  7. A European or North American consumer wastes 15 times more food than a typical African consumer
  8. Lack of technology and infrastructure is the main cause of food waste in Africa, as opposed to household food waste in the developed world
  9. Food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million hungry people
  10. Food waste generates 3.3 billions tons of carbon dioxide, which accelerates global climate change

Share these facts for #WED2015!