Speech by Janez Potočnik - European Commissioner for the Environment at the launch of UNEP’s Food Waste Campaign

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I regret that I cannot be with you in person to mark the launch of this important global initiative on tackling food waste.  I think the title of this initiative could not be more appropriate. Think-Eat-Save. More and more people are beginning to think, and to realise just how staggering the figures of food waste are. The latest studies show that we might be wasting as much as 2 billion tonnes of food a year globally! That's half of what we produce world-wide. It leaves me almost lost for words. How can this be possible - as we struggle in difficult financial times, with million upon millions going hungry, and with ever more constraints on all our resources and damage to our environment? This has to be the ultimate resource inefficiency. We have to tackle it urgently. Initiatives such as this cannot come soon enough. We must stop taking our resources for granted before it is too late.

In Europe we produce about 90 million tons of food waste per year, and a significant part could be easily avoided.  This waste is all the more horrific when you consider the true scale of the resources required to produce those 89 million tons: fuel and mining activity to make fertilizer, transport, refrigeration, packaging, toxic emissions to air and water, and the use of many other natural resources.  Think of this - it takes between 5 and 10 tonnes of water to produce just one kilogram of beef. And the story does not even stop there. We bury or burn a lot of that waste so the wasted food continues to have negative impacts after it is disposed.

Less food waste would lead to a more efficient land use, better water resource management, more sustainable use of phosphorus, and it would have positive repercussions on climate change. From an ethical point of view, there is simply no place for avoidable waste in a resource constrained world, a world where we still have a billion hungry mouths.

In the EU we have set ourselves a target to halve edible food waste by 2020, and to virtually eliminate landfilling by 2020, the Commission is planning to present ideas next year on the sustainability of the food system which will have a strong focus on food waste. Our upcoming EU Communication on Sustainable Food will not only look at food waste, but at how we can tackle resource inefficiencies across the food chain.  Ultimately, this will help the food system will become more resilient and competitive.

Our works fits perfectly with the launch of this initiative. I am delighted to see the issue of food waste and losses, and the impact of our food system, being put together with the issue of global hunger.  I am looking forward to working with you reducing our Food-Print and helping others do the same.

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