Global Food Waste Reaches Staggering Levels: U.N. Report

The UNEP’s Report exposes that a staggering 19% of food produced worldwide in 2022 ended up as waste, amounting to approximately 1.05 billion metric tons of squandered food.

In a damning revelation, the latest report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) has shed light on the alarming scale of global food waste. The U.N. Environment Program’s Food Waste Index Report, unveiled on Wednesday, exposes that a staggering 19% of food produced worldwide in 2022 ended up as waste, amounting to approximately 1.05 billion metric tons of squandered food.

The report, which meticulously tracks the progress of nations towards achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of halving food waste by 2030, has identified households as the principal culprits, responsible for a substantial 60% of the total food wastage. Food services, including restaurants, accounted for around 30%, with the remainder attributed to retailers.

On an individual basis, the report unveils a disconcerting statistic: each person squanders an estimated 174 pounds of food annually, translating to a staggering waste of at least 1 billion meals every day across the globe.

“It is a travesty,” lamented Clementine O’Connor, co-author of the report and an expert on food waste at UNEP. “It doesn’t make any sense, and it is a complicated problem, but through collaboration and systemic action, it is one that can be tackled.”

The repercussions of such widespread food wastage are dire, with over 80 million people worldwide grappling with chronic hunger, and global food crises escalating.

Moreover, food waste contributes significantly to the exacerbation of greenhouse gas emissions and the inefficient utilization of land and resources for food production. Shockingly, food loss and waste account for 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure nearly equivalent to the combined emissions of the United States and China.

Fadila Jumare, a project associate at the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Nigeria focusing on food waste prevention, emphasized the adverse impact of food waste on vulnerable populations. “For humanity, food waste means that less food is available to the poorest population,” Jumare remarked, underscoring the urgency of addressing this pressing issue.

In response to the crisis, the report advocates for the widespread adoption of public-private partnerships by governments, regional entities, and industry groups as a strategic approach to mitigate food waste and its repercussions on climate change and water scarcity. These partnerships facilitate collaborative efforts to monitor and combat food waste effectively.

Furthermore, the report underscores the pivotal role of food redistribution initiatives, such as donating surplus food to food banks and charitable organizations, particularly within the retail sector, as a critical measure in the fight against food waste.

As the world grapples with the multifaceted challenges posed by food waste, concerted efforts and innovative solutions are imperative to alleviate its detrimental impact on both humanity and the planet.