Did you know that one third of the food produced in the world each year ends up in the trash. And the problem will only get worse, reveals a new study. Many companies have taken effective initiatives to reduce this waste.
Every year, 1.6 billion tons of food go to the junkyard all over the world, a third of everything produced on Earth. Some figures from FAO are sufficient to give an idea of the scale of the phenomenon. For example, consider that one third of cereal crops and nearly half of all fruits and vegetables are lost in the food chain. 35% of the fish and seafood caught are discarded and 20% of the milk produced is finally discarded. A waste all the more outrageous that at the same time, 870 million people suffer from malnutrition and that such production thrown away generates 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Alas the problem is not going to go away by itself. According to projections by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the volume of annual food waste will continue to increase by 1.9% per year by 2030, or 2.1 billion tonnes by that date. That’s 66 tons of food thrown away every second. Asia will be the most affected region. As people get richer, they increase their consumption and demand for more varied foods, often not produced locally, according to the study.
There is waste at all levels
Losses add up all along the supply chain. The biggest source of waste is at the production level, with for example rodents or parasites eating crops or mechanical damage that damages fruits during harvesting. In the supply chain where 350 million tonnes are lost each year, the problem is mainly the lack of adequate infrastructure (cold chain does not exist in many countries) or industrial processes that are more concerned with efficiency and speed rather than reducing losses. Finally at the marketing level, the different standards in different countries and the imposition of too strict expiry dates result in wastage equivalent to 110 billion dollars, estimates the BCG.
Consumers often have a misconception of what to do. They think for example that fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier than frozen foods, while the opposite is true. Fresh foods lose their nutrients during transport and increase the risk of waste. Another drift to mention is promotions that encourage the purchase of large quantities and lead the consumer to throw away food that he has not had the time to eat before it is damaged. In total solving all the problems in the food chain would save 700 billion dollars per year in food, estimates the BCG.
Companies want to reduce this waste
If governments and consumers have a role to play, businesses must be the spearhead of the fight against waste. Many have already launched initiatives:
- large seed companies (BASF, Bayer, Syngenta or Monsanto) have trained more than three million small farmers in good agricultural practices to control pests and reduce losses during harvesting
- with its “ugly fruits and vegetables” initiative launched in 2014, Intermarché is giving a chance to poorly calibrated products
- in England, Marks & Spencer sells its strawberries in a special ethylene-absorbent package, extending shelf life by 50%
- in Taiwan, Carrefour opened a restaurant where unsold products from its suppliers or stores are cooked
- in California a San Diego dumpster rental company offers roll-off dumpsters to supermarkets
- Sodexo and Ikea have partnered with start-up LeanPath to measure and analyze waste and educate staff in collective eating places
- in Kenya the Rockefeller Foundation is working with the company TechnoServe to provide small farmers with solar-powered cold storage units to store their fruits and vegetables
- UK retailer Tesco recycles stale foods to animal feed and used oil to biodiesel
- PepsiCo has revised its supply of fruits and vegetables to favor local suppliers and reduce transportation losses
Ane one of us can help reduce food waste, from the small consumer to the largest corporations. Let’s help save our planet and reduce pollution.