Representational Image. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Representational Image. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

17% of total food available globally wasted in 2019: Here’s what the UN said

The UN Environment Programme’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme’s report showed household food waste is a global problem. Nearly 700 million people go to bed hungry every night
By HT Correspondent | Edited by Sameer
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 10:37 AM IST

Households, retailers, institutions and the hospitality industry threw almost one billion tonne, or 17% of the food available to consumers worldwide in 2019, the United Nations (UN) has said. Here is all you need to know about the wastage:

• It is far more than previously suspected and environmentally, socially and economically costly.

• If all the wasted food were packed into 40-ton container trucks parked end-to-end, they would circle the Earth seven times.

• UN estimates nearly 700 million people go to bed hungry every night.

• Up to now, food waste was seen as a rich world problem.

• But the UN Environment Programme’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme’s report showed household food waste is a global problem.

• Of the 121 kilos of consumer-level food thrown away each year for every person on the planet, more than half -- 74 kilos -- is disposed of by households.

• The report covers three-quarters of humanity and 54 countries -- poor, middle-income and rich -- with good enough data to ensure robust findings.

• It is also the first to focus exclusively on what happens to food at the consumer level, rather than food lost during production, storage, or distribution.

• The resulting Food Waste Index is designed to help countries take the measure of the problem within their borders, which could also help curb global warming.

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• If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

• Even as efforts to avoid food waste are scaled up, there remains the problem of what to do with whatever unused or unusable biowaste is left over.

• The one place it should not go is landfills where it emits the powerful greenhouse gas methane and serves no productive purpose.

• There are many alternatives to burying biowaste, including donating food that is still edible, processing it for animal feed, composting, and biogas production.

• One technology already operating on an industrial scale in South Africa and elsewhere is the use of black soldier fly larvae to produce protein-rich animal feed.

• Rich countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark have acted successfully on food waste.

• Britain saw a 31% drop in household food waste over 12 years, excluding inedible matter.

• Food waste issues will be addressed at the first-ever UN World Food Systems Summit in September or October.

• The summit will provide an opportunity to launch new actions to tackle food waste globally.

• One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030.

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