Food waste is a terrible problem – a 1.3 billion tons a year problem – according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Globally, about one-third of all food produced ($1 trillion worth) is lost or wasted.
Several reports released within the last few months highlight the scope of the problem, including a report released last month which found that in the U.S. food waste is equivalent to $197.7 billion. A report released earlier this month found that up to half of the food produced globally ends up being wasted. The world produces about four billion metric tons of food a year, but an estimated 30 to 50 percent are wasted (1.2 billion tons a year).
Enter the Think.Eat.Save campaign launched last week by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the FAO and partners. The aim of the campaign is to reduce food waste. Specifically, it targets food wasted by retailers, consumers and the hospitality industry. The campaign couldn’t come at a better time. The global food system has profound effects on the environment. Over 20 percent of all cultivated land, 30 percent of forests and 10 percent of grasslands are being degraded. Freshwater doesn’t fair much better as nine percent of freshwater resources are withdrawn, and 70 percent is caused by irrigated agriculture. Over 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and land use changes. The global food system accounts for almost 30 percent of end-user available energy.
“In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense – economically, environmentally and ethically,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The Think.Eat.Save campaign “aims to accelerate action and provide a global vision,” according to a press release, and its website serves as an “information-sharing portal” for the various food waste reduction initiatives. To that end, there are tips posted for retailers, the hospitality industry, and restaurants which include the following:
- Carry out waste audits and product loss analysis for high waste areas
- Work with suppliers to reduce waste
- Offer discounts for near-expiration items
- Redesign product displays with less excess
- Standardize labeling
- Limit menu choices and introduce flexible portioning
- Create staff engagement programs
- Increase food donations
My grandparents, who survived the Great Depression, used to say, “Waste not, want not.” The retail, hospitality and restaurant industry all need to take that adage to heart. In a world with an ever-increasing population, we simply can’t afford to waste up to half of the food produced. Hopefully, the Think.Eat.Save campaign can help reduce food waste.
Image credit: Flickr user, Nick Saltmarsh