No Time to Waste: Using Data to Drive Down Food Waste

Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted – around 1.3 billion tonnes every year. This amounts to roughly US$680 billion in developed countries and US$310 billion in developing countries, with a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to 8 per cent of global greenhouse emissions.

Cutting food waste is one of the most effective ways to reduce climate impact.

However, lack of data has been pointed to as a major cause for inaction. “Everybody thinks they don’t waste food,” says Clementine O’Connor, Sustainable Food Systems Programme Officer at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “Food waste data helps governments understand the scale of the problem at home, and make the case for action.” Data also helps countries and companies identify hotspots in the supply chain, evaluate the efficacy of policy measures, estimate the potential for material recovery and track progress towards 2030.

How food waste data can support effective planning

Existing global estimates rely on extrapolation of data from a small number of countries, often using old data. A better measurement may show that action on food waste prevention could benefit developing countries as well as developed ones. For example, a 2015 study in Ghana shows household food waste generation at 80-86kg per capita across regions, comparable with rates in New Zealand. Read more… 

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