Of all the food available to consumers in the world, 17% is discarded. This is almost a billion tons of products per year. This is stated in a joint report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the British environmental NGO WRAP, published on Thursday, March 4.
The report says that in 2019, 931 million tons of food on the planet were thrown away. This is 17% of all food produced.
If all the discarded food was placed in 40-ton trucks parked end-to-end, the chain of trucks would circle the Ground seven times. Simultaneously, according to the UN, about 690 million people on Earth went hungry in 2019. The problem of hunger is expected to worsen significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is noteworthy that more than 60% of food losses occur in households, 26% – in the public catering system, and 13% – in retail. The authors of the report emphasize that they previously underestimated the scale of food losses at the “consumer-level” at home. So, out of 121 kilograms of discarded food per person per year, 74 kilograms are accounted for by household waste.
Food waste used to be seen as a problem mainly in rich countries. However, the report notes that the amount of food thrown away at home is generally the same among high-and low-income people, although there is not enough information for the poorest countries. The data on household food waste available to the authors of the report covers countries where 75% of the world’s population lives.
In the concept of food losses, the report authors put the whole food, including its inedible parts, such as bones and rind. In some high-income countries, the ratio is 50-50. But there is no reliable data for other countries. UNEP notes that even if some of this waste cannot be eaten by humans, there are more preferable ways to manage it, such as sending it to animal feed or compost.
“We are so used to throwing away food that we have forgotten about its value and how much it costs our nature to feed the growing population of the planet. Whether we like it or not, we are at home — this is the most significant part of the problem,”says the head of the WRAP organization, Markus Gower.
The report was prepared in support of global efforts to halve food waste by 2030.
It is estimated that 8-10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to discarded food. If uneaten food were a state, it would rank third in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions after the United States and China, said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
She emphasizes that discarded food complicates waste management systems, exacerbates food security problems, loss of biodiversity, and pollution. According to Inger Anderson, governments, businesses, and food consumers should be involved in reducing food waste.