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What is wastage – Part 1

Wastage

Today, the 16th of October is World Food Day, and tomorrow, the 17th of October is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Keeping these two days in mind, Food and Poverty, it reminds us of a very important topic that has to be addressed and that is Food Wastage.

Food Wastage

Headlines about famine in certain parts of the world are distressingly frequent. At the same time, accounts of the rising occurrence of diabetes and obesity – due to overconsumption – in other (developed) parts of the world are also alarming.

There is enough food produced in the world to feed everyone. (FAO Annual Report, 2018) Still, one in nine people do not have enough to eat; that is 793 million undernourished people. (UNICEF/WHO, Levels and Trends in Malnutrition, 2018). If one-quarter of the food currently lost or wasted could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people.

According to a recent report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), globally, nearly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, equalling a total of 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year. (UN Environment Program, Food Waste Index Report 2021). Almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced are wasted (that is 3.7 trillion apples).

As the production of food is resource-intensive, food losses and wastes are indirectly accompanied by a broad range of social and economic concerns, along with environmental impacts such as soil erosion, deforestation, water and air pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that occur in the processes of food production, storage, transportation, and waste management.

Food waste occurs along the entire spectrum of production, from the farm to distribution to retailers to the consumer. This waste is categorised differently based on where it occurs:

·         Food “loss” occurs before the food reaches the consumer as a result of issues in the production, storage, processing and distribution phases.

·         Food “waste” refers to food that is fit for consumption but consciously discarded at the retail or consumption phases.

Approximately 88 million tonnes of food is wasted in the European Union each year. In the US, up to 40% of all food produced goes uneaten, and about 95% of discarded food ends up in landfills. Of the estimated 40 million tons of food that go to waste every year, much of it, is perfectly edible and nutritious.

While food waste occurs at all stages of the food supply chain, private households have been identified as key actors in food waste generation. In the US, food waste equates to over 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds) of waste per person, 21% of the food bought, costing the average American $1,800 per year. (US Environmental Protection Agency, Wasted Food Report 2018) That equates to every person throwing more than 650 average-sized apples right into the garbage, or rather into landfills, as most discarded food ends up there.

On 29 September 2020, the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste was observed. This came during the global Covid-19 pandemic, which brought about a wake-up call on the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed.

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