Every year, 1,3 billion tonnes of food in the world goes to waste.
According to data by the United Nations (UN), this is a third of the total amount of food produced in the world. The numbers are even more shocking after realising that by wasting our food we're helping to feed climate change.
In Europe, 88 million tonnes of food is wasted every year, and the total cost of this is an estimated 143 billion euros. Great Britain is the leading country in Europe with the most extensive amount of wasted food, following Germany, France, Spain and Holland.
Foodwaste in the UK households
In the UK, 70% of food waste is produced in households, equivalent to 143 kg per person, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The people who waste the most are young, educated, living in the cities, and following a busy lifestyle.
A minor part of the food (16%) is wasted during the manufacturing process, which is an equivalent of 1.5 million tonnes. Around 1.1 million tonnes (12%) of food waste comes from the hospitality and foodservice industry(HaFS) and 0.3 million tonnes (3%) from the retail sector.
Among the reasons why so much food is wasted in the manufacturing process are the issues occurring during harvesting, surplus production, wrong labelling and short shelf life.
A study conducted in 2018 found that about a third of our fruit and veg is rejected for being the wrong size or shape before it even reaches the supermarket shelf.
Food waste and greenhouse emissions
Over 2 million tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible. This means we could prepare 1.3 billion meals with it. How is it possible that nearly a billion people worldwide suffer from famine while we produce enough to feed everyone?
By throwing away food, it’s not only the food itself that is wasted. To produce food, we need a lot of resources and energy. When we don't eat the food we buy, we also waste the lands and water to grow crops, we waste electricity needed for production process and packaging, petrol required for distribution, transportation and sales and precious time of all the people involved in the food production process.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, if the food waste was a country, it would be the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
One-third of greenhouse emissions globally are caused by agriculture, and still, 30% of the food we produce goes to waste.
According to the report from WRAP, which collects the UK food waste data, the greenhouse gas emissions related to the 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in the UK are estimated to be around 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2e).This is equivalent to around 8% of the UK’s total emissions in 2018.
Concern about climate change
In recent years, consumers’ attitudes towards climate change have changed. The levels of concern about climate emergencies have increased in the UK when the pandemic started. During a poll in March 2020, 76% of Brits expressed concern about climate change, with 22% not concerned (compared with 65% concerned and 35% not concerned in June 2012)
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) statistics show that just over half (54%) of Brits are trying to minimise throwing away food. More than a quarter (26%) say they do it to limit the effects of climate change, but the majority (66%) do it for other reasons, such as money savings, convenience, ethical reasons or lifestyle choice or ethical reasons.
Among those who try to reduce food waste, the largest group are people aged 55 to 64 years (60%), compared with 48% of people aged 16 to 24 years. However, the younger people are those who do it for climate change reasons - 39% of 16- to 24-year-olds, while only 15% of people aged 65 years and over and 23% of people aged 55 to 64 years minimise food waste for the climate.