The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 1.3 billion metric tons of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste each year. While it is easy to recognize the enormity of this number, it is much more difficult to make sense of it in a useful way.
Every day, many governments, local organizations as well as international organizations work to protect the environment by reducing pollution, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill, protecting areas of parkland, wildlife reserves and marine biodiversity, and enforcing regulations that keep our water and air clean.
Food waste being one of the issues, places an unnecessarily heavy burden on the environment. The production, processing, storage, and transportation of food that ultimately goes to waste still consumes natural resources and other inputs, while also releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants that stem from the food system. For example, the study points out that the production of wasted food consumes over 25 percent of all freshwater used in the U.S. and around 300 million barrels of oil.
The UK alone throws away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink from homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. This costs £12 billion a year, harms the environment and wastes resources. The UK food industry waste is estimated to cost £5 billion per year.
Preventing food waste is better for the environment than any treatment, and can save money for businesses and households. When there is food waste, treatment by anaerobic digestion or in-vessel composting is more sustainable than landfilling, which creates greenhouse gases.
A number of organizations in partnership with businesses have launched action plans on voluntary agreements to reduce food and packaging providing ideas and information to help waste less. Through a number of campaigns the grocery retail sector, the hospitality sector are being encouraged to cut food and associated packaging waste by 5% and increase the overall rate of food and packaging waste that is being recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted to 70% by 2015.
Despite all the combined efforts to cut food waste, there is still need to reduce and prevent waste in the whole of the food supply chain, encouraging sustainable production and consumption.
For more information read:
Review of Waste Policy in England (2011) (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-review-of-waste-policy-in-england-2011)