World Faces Food Waste Crisis: How We Can Reverse the Trend

Ahead of the International Day of Zero Waste, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WRAP released their Food Waste Index Report 2024, highlighting a staggering statistic: over 1 billion meals are squandered daily worldwide. Published on March 27, 2024, the report paints a distressing picture of a world where while 783 million people suffer from hunger, an equivalent of one-fifth of all food available to consumers goes to waste, significantly impacting the global economy and intensifying climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

The Food Waste Index Report 2024 tracks progress toward halving global food waste by 2030, emphasizing multi-stakeholder collaboration through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Key findings reveal that in 2022, 1.05 billion tonnes of food were wasted globally, with households responsible for 60% of this waste.

This excessive waste contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and this worsens food insecurity. Surprisingly, food wastage is not solely a problem in affluent nations, as data shows convergence in waste levels across different income groups. Factors like climate, urban-rural disparities, and inadequate data coverage influence food wastage patterns.

Promisingly, only a handful of countries, mainly from the G20, have suitable estimates to track progress towards this goal, highlighting the need for improved data collection and reporting mechanisms. The report advocates for consistent measurement of food wastage, integration into national climate plans, and collaboration across international supply chains to effectively tackle this critical issue at both individual and systemic levels.

“Food wastage is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature. The good news is we know if countries prioritize this issue, they can significantly reverse food loss and waste, reduce climate impacts and economic losses, and accelerate progress on global goals.”

food waste
An illustration of food waste

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) emerge as a promising solution, increasingly being adopted to combat food wastage and its environmental impacts while also bringing together various stakeholders to drive systemic change and innovation. These partnerships not only address food waste but also contribute to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and alleviating water stress.

“With the huge cost to the environment, society, and global economies caused by food wastage, we need greater coordinated action across continents and supply chains. We support UNEP in calling for more G20 countries to measure food waste and work towards SDG12.3,” said Harriet Lamb, CEO of WRAP.

“This is critical to ensuring food feeds people, not landfills. Public-private partnerships are one key tool delivering results today, but they require support: whether philanthropic, business, or governmental, actors must rally behind programs addressing the enormous impact wasting food has on food security, our climate, and our wallets.”

The UNEP and WRAP report serves as an inspiring call for action, urging countries to integrate food wastage reduction strategies into their national climate plans and enhance cooperation across continents and supply chains. By leveraging PPPs and adopting best practices, we can work towards a future where food feeds people, not landfills while safeguarding the environment for generations to come.

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