Food Waste

Food waste, it’s criminal!

Food waste is not just an event problem, but is a major global issue. It’s estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that a third of all food is wasted. 

In an era where the global population is using the earth’s resources at a rate much much faster than it can replenish, food waste is one of the most urgent, global issues.

Translated into numbers, the amount of food wasted is worth US$ 990 billion, and weighs about 1.3 billion tons , going unused every year. In affluent countries, an estimated 222 million tons of food is wasted, corresponding to the entire sub-Saharan food production in Africa.

With people not having enough to eat globally, and affluent countries throwing it out, it is an obscene situation.

But food waste isn’t just a humanitarian concern, it is also a major environmental issue.

Think of all the wasted energy, water, chemicals used to grow food that never makes it onto plates and into bellies. Imagine all the fuel and energy used to transport and process, package and refrigerate it.

And as the final kick, as we are learning in our composting waste lessons, if food goes to  landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.

It’s actually estimated that about 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food. To put it in perspective, in the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals includes a focus on halving food waste and loss by 2030.

The good news is that wasteful countries are listening and creating programmes to tackle this phenomenon. 

Ugly food movement

Unsold and just out of date food at supermarkets is a major contributor to the food waste problem. One of the reasons is customer demand for perfect looking food – supermarkets reject malformed produce with much not event making it to the store.

But the ugly food movement is catching on! Promoting the use of ‘ugly’ food by caterers, and also a good message to include to push food waste avoidance in everyday life.

Delivery services Imperfect produce and Misfits market in the USA or Ugly Food in Singapore are great examples of the ugly food phenomenon taking hold!

Food Waste Programmes

Depending on where in the world your event is, you may find that the country really is tackling this crime of food waste. France leads the way by introducing a law that requires supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities. It also bans them from destroying food, which could be donated.

SAVE FOOD is a global initiative on food loss and food waste reduction. REFRESH is an EU research project to understand the drivers behind food waste. 

In the USA the USDA and EPA are tackling food waste head-on with a multitude of programmes and initiatives including the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, and making food donation procedures easier.

The FAO created the global food waste campaign thinkeatsave.org. Browse the interactive map on the FAO website to find a food waste programme near your event. 

Find a food waste programme near you

Other programmes around the world: