Food Loss and Waste | WWF
© Marina Kelava

FOOD LOSS AND WASTE

If we all shopped, cooked and ate smarter we could avoid wasting food. Combining that with actions along supply chains, like increasing efficiency or improving storage, would mean we had more than enough food to feed a growing population. However, one third of all the food we produce goes uneaten, with major negative impacts on nature, global hunger and the economy.
WASTING FOOD IS NOT AN OPTION

There are 700 million people in the world going hungry every day. Yet we throw away perfectly edible food - one third of everything we produce to be precise. But this doesn’t just mean people are going hungry, it also means we are needlessly wasting our limited natural resources.

Food production has a massive impact on the environment. In fact, how we produce and consume food is the biggest threat to our planet today. But because one third of food is wasted, one third of this damage is done without reason.

From farm to fork, food is lost or wasted at every step of the journey. Food loss takes place on the farm and through supply chains, due to sub-optimal farming methods, poor storage and inflexible distribution or buying practices. Sometimes it's something as simple as a bag not being strong enough to hold its contents, and food like rice leaking out of small tears. We’re also generating huge amounts of food waste at the point of consumption, either in shops, restaurants at home. Unclear labelling, portion sizes which are too big and simply not eating everything before it goes off all contribute. Most uneaten food winds up in landfills, where it rots and releases greenhouse gas emissions. Wasted food contributes approximately eight percent of all global emissions.

In the developing world, a larger proportion of the food going uneaten is lost, whereas in the developed world, waste is the bigger problem. But food is lost and wasted everywhere and improvements are needed across all food systems to minimize impacts on nature and ensure that what we do produce winds up where it is intended - in the bellies of people around the world.

We want to see a world in which food's true value is recognised and wastage is dramatically reduced to end hunger, cater for a growing global population and reduce the pressure on our planet.

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, we want to see global food waste halved by 2030, and major reductions achieved in food loss. This will substantially reduce the demand for food production, allowing us to ease pressures on nature.

One of the most important things is for food loss and waste measurement to be institutionalised across food systems. Presently, too few farmers, businesses or consumers understand exactly how much food they are throwing away, or which foods are going uneaten.

With a better understanding of what is being lost and why, the right solutions can be implemented. Businesses can make investment in their operations and consumers can take responsibility for their actions. There may be times when policymakers need to implement legislation, to either incentivise food loss and waste reduction, or to penalise those who are throwing away edible food. The most effective solutions will involve multi-stakeholder collaboration and the design of food systems which work for everyone.

There will always be some unavoidable loss and waste, be it due to pests, extreme weather or diseases, changes in market demand or simply because not all parts of all foods are edible. Indeed, interpretation of what is classified as waste differs from place to place, with some parts of food deemed inedible in one country, but a delicacy in another. In any case, we need to keep food out of landfill, to avoid the release of additional emissions, instead redirecting any edible food to the hungry, and using scraps for animal feed or composting.

 

What we're doing

We’re tackling this challenge on two fronts. On the consumption side, we’re working with businesses that make, sell and serve food to understand why food gets wasted, and what can be done about it. And we’re running awareness campaigns to make consumers better informed about food waste.

Equally, we’re looking at ways to reduce the amount of food that gets lost along supply chains, particularly in Africa and Asia, by investing in innovative routes to market and new technology for smallholder farmers.

PERSPECTIVES

ONE WAY TO TACKLE FOOD WASTE? EAT MORE OF WHAT WE GROW. 

"While most loss or waste of food takes place in restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, or our own kitchens, crops that go unharvested on farms are a piece of the puzzle too: It’s estimated that 10–19 million tons of produce never make it past the farm gate each year."

READ MORE

NO MORE EXCUSES FOR BLIND SPOTS IN FOOD SUPPLY CHAINS

"The global food industry has an estimated market value of around $10 trillion, accounting for more than ten per cent of global GDP. However, inefficiencies and flaws in the food system are leading to $12 trillion in hidden environmental, health and poverty costs."

READ MORE

USA: REDUCING FOOD WASTE IN HOTELS


"Serving $35 billion in catering and banquets every year, and generating waste from inedible parts like bones, rinds and peelings, offcuts and leftovers, hotels are an obvious place in which to impact the wastefulness of the food system."

READ MORE

What YOU can do
  • Make a shopping list and meal plan before you go food shopping
  • Don't go food shopping on an empty stomach and avoid impulse buys
  • Freeze and label any leftovers – and make sure you eat them!
  • Only take what you need from a buffet in a hotel or restaurant
  • Ask for a doggie bag to take home any of your leftovers from a restaurant
  • Ask supermarkets and restaurants if they have food donation programmes – suggest they start one if they don’t!