Reducing food waste could save billions of dollars and lower emissions

Dec 8, 2015 Posted by:  

Cutting down food waste by consumers could save between 120 and 300 billion dollars per year by 2030 and help in combating climate change. This is the main conclusion of the report by British organization WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme) and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Achieving this, however, would require actions from consumers who should reduce their food waste by 20-50%.

Up to one third of all food produced globally winds up as waste. It is estimated that the value of all food wasted by consumers every year is worth more than 400 billion dollars. According to the the research carried out by WRAP, this cost could increase in the next 10 years to 600 billion dollars due to growing of the global middle class.

The report, titled "Strategies to achieve economic and environmental gains by reducing food waste", points out how reducing the amount of food which is wasted at different stages of the supply chain - in agriculture, transport, storage and consumption - could help combat climate change and improve economic performance.

"Food waste is a global issue and tackling it is a priority. This report emphasizes the benefits that can be obtained for businesses, consumers and the environment. The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings", said Dr Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at WRAP.

An important role will have to be played by consumers, especially in the rich countries as the majority of food waste there takes place at home. The authors of the report highlight how relatively uncomplicated practical changes, such as lowering the average temperatures of refrigerators or designing better packaging, can significantly help in preventing food spoilage. It is estimated that in the global South countries better refrigeration equipment could lower the food waste by approximately 25%.

Cutting down food waste can also contribute substantially to combating climate change. The available data suggest that food waste is responsible for up to 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, or 3,3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent per year. According to the WRAP estimates, food waste reduction could help by 2030 to lower global emissions by at least 0,2 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent, and likely even by as much as 1 billion CO2 equivalent per year - more than the annual emissions of Germany.

When there is less food waste, the possibility to feed the growing populations from the same amount of land becomes more likely. "Reducing food waste is good for the economy and good for the climate", said Helen Mountford, from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. "Less food waste means greater efficiency, more productivity, and direct savings for consumers. It also means more food available to feed the estimated 805 million that go to bed hungry each day", she added.

The report makes it clear that one of the advantages of reducing food waste can be lowering of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The authors hope that these findings will serve as a call for action directed at policy-makers around the world.

The full report is available here (click to download PDF).

Source: WRAP

Photo credit: USDA (Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Last Modified: Dec 8, 2015