The importance of food waste stretches from environmental pressures to economic and social impacts. According to the FUSIONS project, an estimated 100Mtonnes of food waste is produced eache year in EU-28. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of current food waste for EU in 2011 is estimated to at last around 227 MT of CO2 equivalents. This is 16% of the total GWP of food utilisation in 2011. At the global level, the FAO study Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources highlights that the carbon footprint of all food that is produced but not eaten is close to 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent. Consequently, food wastage becomes the 3rd emitter after USA and China.
In terms of economic impacts, food waste represents high waste management costs and money wasted, given the considerable amount of edible food thrown away every year in the EU. Such waste management costs include the maintenance of landfills (where food waste is most often disposed) as well as transport costs, operations costs in the treatment plants, and separation costs in some cases. Biogenic waste (food residues) usually show a high water content and therefore low heat value, heavily influencing the calorific value of the waste and therefore the energy efficiency of combustion plants. WRAP estimates that the portion of food waste which can be avoided represents an average economic cost of £480 (€595) per household per year.
Wasting food also raises social questions, particularly given the current global financial crisis, rising food prices and international food shortages. If only one-fourth of the food lost or wasted globally was consumed it would be sufficient to feed 870 million peope, 12% of the world’s current population. Food loss and waste drives up the price of food. Reducing food loss and waste is a key strategy towards ensuring food security for a projected 9 billion people in 2050.
This section provides information on food waste, its impacts and initiatives underway to reduce food waste. Information is available below on the following topics: