As Much As Half of the World’s Food Goes to Waste

food waste

Roughly two billion tonnes of food is wasted every year according to a report from the UK’s institution of Mechanical of Engineers (IMechE). Amongst the key factors cited as contributing to the figure are poor agricultural practices, overly strict sell-by dates and retailer’s stringent standards on the physical appearance of fruit and vegetables.

At present, the criteria that retailers use to select the produce they’ll stock means that in the UK as much of 30% of the vegetable crops aren’t ever harvested on the grounds of their appearance. As a result a huge amount of resources are wasted on producing food that won’t be eaten. Worldwide 550 billion cubic meters of water employed in growing crops that aren’t ever seen by consumers. However, blame also lies with households, who, in the US and Europe, throwaway half of the food they buy.

Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IMechE, said:

The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is s’gering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

By eliminating unnecessary waste and making better use of limited the resources such as water IMechE claim that food production could be increased by as much as 100%.

Retailers have reacted to the report by claiming they are already working to reduce food waste, with a spokesperson for supermarket chain Morrisons saying:

We understand how important it is to tackle the issue of food waste and make an effort to do so in every area of our business – from our manufacturing facilities right through to our stores.

We don’t currently offer buy-one-get-one-free offers on our fruit and vegetables, have relaxed our specifications on this produce to accept more ‘wonky’ crops and offer clear labelling for customers.

Meanwhile, others have questioned the reports findings. Toine Timmermans, from Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands has commented that:

Based on years of research I find the [IMechE report's] conclusion about the amount of food waste (1.2-2 billion tonnes) unrealistically high.

Green Steve’s Reaction

When it comes to consumer food waste, I think the reason it is so high is because many people do not relate food going in the bin with their hard earned money going the same way.

I would imagine that the more expensive a food is, the less chance it has of ending up in a bin so until food prices rise to a level where it becomes prohibitively expensive to through good food away, consumers will tend to stick rigorously to best before dates and care little about leftovers.

As for businesses and supermarkets in particular, they have made progress from what I have seen but there is still a lot to be done when it comes to deals and offers that encourage waste, wonky vegetables and other similar aspects of trading.

Steve (156 Posts)

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