Food waste is a global problem. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), about a third of the total food produced globally is lost as waste. A recent study puts the food discarded by an average American every day at 422 grams (approx. 1 pound).
A new report by the Boston Consulting Group estimates that using the current rate at which food is lost, the annual loss should hit 2.1 billion tons by 2030 which is worth $1.5 trillion. By cutting down food waste, many nations can tremendously improve their foreign exchange earnings and better their economy. According to the estimate by Water & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the avoidable annual food waste translates to an average economic cost of $665 per household.
The portion of the food lost as waste is also driving up the price of the available food which further makes it difficult for households with limited income to afford them. This is coming on the heels of another report that estimates that 815 million people globally go to bed on empty stomach.
Besides the obvious economic loss, when food is left in landfills to decompose they give off a bad odor which pollute the air. The decomposing organic matter also releases methane which is one of the global warming gases. According to the UN FAO analysis of 2013, 8% of harmful emissions come from wasted food.
Factors Implicated With Food Wastage
There are several factors that lead to food waste along the entire agricultural chain. Flooding and several other natural disasters have led to incredible food loses. Farm and storage pests also lead to the discarding of a large amount of food every year.
Bad agricultural practices can also cause damage to foods and make them spoil faster or they lose their aesthetics such that the farmer is forced to discard them. Other factors implicated with food wastage include lack of good storage facilities, inadequate transportation, and excess purchases.
In developing countries, it is estimated that 40% of food loss occurs between post-harvest and processing. According to a report published on the Huffington Post about half of the food produced in developing countries doesn’t get to the market. The report also stated that 630 million tons of food estimated at 310 billion dollars is lost annually in developing countries.
The biggest challenges facing farmers in developing countries include transportation, education, energy, and information. Retailers and customers also contribute to waste.
Food Waste And The Sustainable Development Goals
Inasmuch as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have different focal points, SDG 2 and 12 is clearly aimed at drawing attention to food wastage. The goal of SDG 2 is “To end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”, while SDG 12 is aimed at “Responsible Consumption and Production”.
SDG 1 which says “No Poverty” is also indirectly related to food wastage. If the huge amount of money lost to food waste is harnessed it can be used to provide better and subsidized social services to the populace, thus enhancing their living condition.