Driven to Waste: Global Food Loss on Farms, a new report from WWF and Tesco, reveals an estimated 2.5 billion tonnes of food goes uneaten around the world each year. That is an increase of approximately 1.2 billion tonnes on the established estimates of 1.3 billion tonnes wasted each year. These new estimates indicate that of all the food grown, approximately 40 per cent goes uneaten, which is higher than the previously estimated figure of 33 per cent.
The report focuses on food losses on farms, around and during harvests and slaugher as well as after. This is the first quantification of total on-farm food loss since 2011. When combined with updated data on loss in supply chains and waste at retail and consumption, we have a clearer picture of the scale of food loss and waste from farm to fork demonstrating how important it is to halve food loss and waste through the whole supply chain, not just in retail and consumption.
Producing food uses a huge amount of land, water and energy, so wasted food significantly impacts climate change – previous estimates suggest that food waste accounts for 8 per cent of greenhouse gases (GHG). Driven To Waste’s new data indicate that the numbers are even more substantial, pointing to a contribution of approximately 10 per cent of all GHG emissions. This is the equivalent of nearly twice the emissions produced by all the cars driven in the US and Europe in one year.
And, as agricultural resource-use expands around the world, 4.4 million km2 of agricultural land and 760km3 of water are used to produce the 1.2 billion tonnes of food that are lost before, during and after harvest or diverted to other uses such as animal feed and biofuel. This equates to a landmass larger than the Indian subcontinent and water volume equivalent to 304 million Olympic swimming pools - and this doesn’t even include the additional resources used to produce food, that is wasted further down the supply chain.
Crucially, in exploring the contributary factors to food loss, Driven To Waste overturns a long-held belief that food loss on farms is solely an issue in less affluent regions, with lower levels of industrialization. The report shows that per capita farm-stage losses are generally higher in industrialized regions. Despite having higher on farm mechanization and only 37 per cent of the global population, high- and middle- income countries of Europe, North America and Industrialized Asia contribute 58 per cent of global harvest waste.