Did you know, that in developed countries, the average person creates more than $1,350 worth of food loss and waste each year? That’s a lot of wasted money and resources!
What is the main reason for this? Many people tend to think it’s because they don’t have enough time to cook healthy meals with fresh ingredients, but in reality, it’s mostly due to poor planning and forgetting about leftovers.
The global food waste problem is an issue that affects everyone. We are wasting food at an alarming rate, and according to the UN’s sustainable development goal #2 (Zero Hunger), the projected global population growth is estimated to greatly increase over the next few decades reaching 10 billion by 2050, so the need to reduce the world’s food waste in order to prevent an increase in food insecurity is currently reaching a critical point.
One of the most important steps you can take in food waste prevention is to educate yourself in food loss and waste statistics so that you can better understand the amount of food wasted and the environmental impact it brings (the numbers may surprise you!).
But first, we must define what both food loss and waste are.
What’s the Difference Between Food Loss and Food Waste?
For a lot of consumers the words “food loss” and “food waste” are often regarded as the same term and used interchangeably. However, both terms have distinct meanings behind them and can only occur within certain stages of supply chains or food systems.
Food loss typically takes place at the production, storage, processing, and distribution stages in the food supply chain. In other words, food loss occurs in the early stages of food systems before it reaches the retail level.
Food loss is usually the bruising, wilting, or destruction of a food product due to limitations in processes, technology, infrastructure, handling, and packaging within food production.
On the other hand, food waste refers to food that is of good quality and fit for consumption, yet does not get consumed due to damaging or discarding the food product on both the retail and consumer level.
Food waste is usually the result of negligence or a conscious decision to waste food by either throwing it away or choosing to over-shop at the retail stage.
Food Waste Facts and Statistics 2021
Now that we have gone over the difference between food loss and food waste, here are the top 20 food waste statistics of the year!
- ⅓ of all food produced is lost or wasted – that’s around 1.3 billion tonnes of food – costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year.
- The 3 most wasted food items on a consumer level are fruits, vegetables, and breads.
- Global food waste has a bigger greenhouse emissions footprint than the entire airline industry, global plastics production, and global oil extraction. Food waste is responsible for up to 11.8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Total food waste at retail and consumer levels results in 173 billion cubic metres of water used to grow lost or wasted food. This represents 24 percent of all water used for agriculture.
- Around 45% of the world’s fruit and vegetables go to waste each year.
- Food waste costs the average household around $2,500 each year. Think of how many more meals that equals up to!
- Globally, there are about 1 billion tons a year of avoidable food wastage from production-to-consumption stages – this means 30-40 percent or more edible foods end up in landfills instead of on plates around the world!
- If everyone ate just one less serving a day—a banana here, half an avocado there—we could save 10 million metric tons annually!
- Eliminating global food waste would save 4.4 million tonnes of C02 a year, the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road.
- Due to the unfavourable conditions inside landfills, it takes 25 years for a full head of lettuce to decompose.
- Around 70% of all global food waste is made up of uneaten food that is perfectly edible.
- 1.4 billion hectares of land is being used to grow global food products that will never be eaten, each year. That stretch of land is equal to the size of India, the US, and Egypt combined!
- Lack of education and awareness of simple things such as basic nutrition actually leads to further food waste amongst consumers. For example, many people believe that it is better to buy fresh food, for quality and nutrients, but actually- frozen foods maintain longer and retain more nutrients overall.
- At the retail level, the top global food waste issues are a result of a lack of thorough training, faulty equipment, ineffective processes, and over-ordering from distributors resulting in a food surplus.
- Food loss and waste items account for the largest percentage of materials found within landfills, accounting for 24.1% of all municipal solid waste.
These numbers show the complexity and severity of food loss and waste. This problem is a global economy issue, a natural resources issue, and a human well-being issue. Saving food then is an imperative piece of creating a sustainable food future.
The food waste problem is an opportunity for businesses, governments, and individuals alike to take action on climate change by reducing their carbon footprint.
There are many ways you can play your part in reducing food waste including planning meals ahead of time, making sure to freeze food, making use of leftovers from previous nights, storing food items correctly and many others. You may be surprised at how much money you save over the course of a year when you follow these simple steps!
If this sounds like something you want to learn more about, check out our free online courses here which will provide practical tips for food waste reduction in your own household as well as food storage and preparation tips, to help make the world a little bit greener and a little bit better.