UN Report Exposes Shocking Reality: 1 Billion Tonne Food Wasted
Image Credit: Food Waste is a Global Tragedy | Canva

A recent UN report published in partnership with a non-profit organisation named WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) on 27 March 2024, ahead of the International Day of Zero Waste, which falls on 30 March, revealed that households across all continents around the world wasted a whopping 1.05 billion tonnes of food, which is about 132 kilos per person and almost one-fifth of all food available for consumption.

The findings revealed that out of the total food waste generated in 2022, 60% came from households with food services, amounting to 28% and the retail sector 12%. A significant amount of this food waste was caused by consumers buying more food than they required, estimating portion sizes incorrectly, and not consuming leftovers. Expiration dates of foods were also a key aspect when even fresh and good vegetables were also thrown out, customers mistakenly believed their food had gone bad.

This food waste was dubbed a “global tragedy” when more than 783 million people were struggling to get food for themselves. The combined impact of food loss and waste on the global economy is approximately valued at USD 1 trillion, which, when used adequately, can fill up the stomach of hundreds of millions of people.

The report said that food waste wasn't just a problem in rich countries, which is what many would presume. Instead, it found that in both wealthy and middle-income countries, people waste a similar amount of food, differing by just 7 kg per person on average. Recent data indicates that food loss and waste contribute to 8-10% of the annual global greenhouse gas emissions, which is nearly five times more than what the aviation sector emits. Additionally, it leads to significant biodiversity loss, occupying nearly one-third of the world's agricultural land. This can have a devastating effect on both human lives and the planet.

Through this report, the UNEP was focused on addressing this key issue, intending to halve food waste by 2030 and alarming all the G20 countries to take accurate measures to support the cause. The WRAP and UNEP suggested critical measures that can lead to the development of food waste control. The research recommended governments "raise climate ambition by integrating food loss and waste" into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), pointing out that as of 2022, only 21 nations had included food loss and/or waste reduction in their climate plans or NDCs.

Intending to ensure people are being fed appropriately instead of in landfills, the organisations urge Private and Public sectors to partner up in order to spread the word about the big impact of food waste on food security, climate and the economy.