Food waste generates 8% of greenhouse gases annually, contributing to climate change and exarcebating food insecurity. Reducing food loss and waste is a critical action towards creating a Zero Hunger world.
Let’s start off with a bit of food waste trivia, shall we? Give yourself a gold star for every question you get right. Hover over the image for the answer. Ready?
1. How many people globally go to bed hungry?
2. How much food produced is wasted annually?
3. How many people can that wasted food feed?
4. What else gets wasted with it?
5. What greenhouse gas is produced by food waste rotting in landfill?
How many gold stars did you get? Give yourself one more for the effort!
One third of food produced is either lost or wasted annually
How food gets wasted
One in nine persons globally faced hunger in 2020, and one in three suffered some form of malnutrition. Surprising as it may sound, global hunger is not about the lack of food. In fact, the world’s food production is sufficient to feed 1.5 times the current population.
However, around one third of food produced is either lost or wasted annually. That’s enough food to nourish two billion people.
44% of this wastage occurs in developing countries. Much of it happens during the production process due to factors like improper storage, a lack of refrigeration, technical constraints in harvesting techniques and other infrastructural challenges.
The remaining 56% of food waste comes from high-income countries, with retailers and consumers being responsible for a large proportion of the waste. Some 222 million tonnes of food are thrown away by consumers in developed countries every year. That's almost as much as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
Food that’s left to rot in landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide
More than just wasted food
If you think it’s just wasted food at stake, think again. All the energy and water that goes into growing, harvesting, packaging and transporting food is wasted with it.
The volume of food that is wasted annually needs 28% of the world’s arable land to produce, and water enough to fill Lake Geneva three times over. These are precious resources that could have otherwise been used to feed the most in need.
Food that’s left to rot in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Food waste accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and if it was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas after the US and China.
Greenhouse gases are a major contributor to the climate crisis, affecting water supplies, accelerating desertification and drought, and worsening the unpredictability and severity of weather events.
All of this damages agriculture – and therefore increases hunger – in much of the world.
Reducing food waste is critical towards a Zero Hunger world
The fight against food waste
The World Economic Forum (WEC) estimates that food waste costs the global economy close to US$1 trillion a year. And overall, inefficiencies in food systems cost society US$12 trillion in health, economic and environmental costs.
Reducing food loss and waste is critical towards creating a Zero Hunger world. It means more efficient use of Earth's resources and positive impacts on climate change. Stopping food waste has been highlighted as one of the three important actions for transforming the food system in the UN Environment Programme GEO-6 report.
Everyone has a part to play in the fight against food waste - from farmers to consumers, governments, NGOs and the private sector - whether individually or through concerted efforts. In Australia, a number of activities are already in progress. They include consumer education, investment in waste treatment infrastructure, waste diversion from the retail and commercial sector, food collection for redistribution, and research into high value uses for food waste.
As consumers, we can do our part by taking action from right within our households. From smarter shopping to more creative ways to cook, here are 14 tips to stop food waste that will take us closer towards zero waste, zero hunger.
 UN Environment 2019, Visual Feature: The Global Environment Outlook, www.unep.org, viewed 3 October 2021, <https://www.unep.org/interactive/global-environment-outlook/>
 UN Environment n.d., Facts: Uncovering the global food scandal, www.unep.org, viewed 3 October 2021, <https://www.unep.org/thinkeatsave/get-informed/facts-uncovering-global-food-scandal>
 UN World Food Programme 2021, 11 facts about food loss and waste – and how it links to sustainable food systems | World Food Programme, www.wfp.org, viewed 29 September 2021, <https://www.wfp.org/stories/11-facts-about-food-loss-and-waste-and-how-links-sustainable-food-systems>
 UN Economic Commissions for Europe n.d., The Challenge | UNECE, unece.org, viewed 3 October 2021, <https://unece.org/challenge>
 Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia n.d., Working together to reduce food waste in Australia - DAWE, www.awe.gov.au, viewed 22 October 2021, <https://www.awe.gov.au/environment/protection/waste/publications/food-waste-factsheet>