811 million people go hungry every day. The rest throw away food as if it were worth nothing.
Every year, millions of people suffer from hunger; in 2020, they were between 720 and 811 million. According to FAO’s (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimates, the problem of hunger will not disappear in the coming years. On the contrary, due in part to the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic and global food insecurity, there will still be about 660 million people suffering from hunger in 2030.
Yet, every year 1/3 of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. This is an exorbitant figure which has indeed led to greater awareness of the issue, even if it has not been accompanied by any real improvement in the situation.
Addressing the problem of food waste is fundamental in many ways. First, food waste is responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, reducing food waste is also important for reducing the negative impact on the climate, promoting healthy and sustainable diets and reducing hunger across the world. Finally, being more conscious about food also means that we develop more respect for the resources needed to produce it – such as water, seeds, etc. – and for the people who really need it.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addresses the problem in two points: SDG2 (End hunger) and SDG12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns). To measure progress on the 2030 Agenda goals, two different indices have been developed: the FAO’s Food Loss Index (FLI), which measures the loss of food that occurs in the supply chain up to the retail level, which is not included in the calculation. The second is the Food Waste Index (FWI), calculated by UNEP (UN Environment Programme), which monitors waste at subsequent stages, from retail to consumption.
On the occasion of the 2nd World Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day – Food & Waste around the world – on September 29, 2021, the International Waste Watcher Observatory, in collaboration with Ipsos and the University of Bologna, conducted a survey in 8 different countries: Italy, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America, Russia, Canada and China.
The first relevant data of the study is the fact that the economic power of a country and its waste of food seem to go hand in hand. In fact, countries with greater consumer’s confidence, such as the U.S. and China, are also at the top in terms of waste.
In Spain, 71% of respondents say they waste food less than once a week, as this is also constant in Russia (70%), Germany (70%) and Italy (69%). Instead, 75% of Chinese respondents say they throw away food one or more times a week.
Looking at the numbers, Italians seem to be the most virtuous with a food waste of about 529 g per person in a week. In Spain, the figure is 836 g and in the United Kingdom, 949 g. However, the highest figures are again found outside Europe. A Canadian consumes about 1144 g per week, while a Chinese consumes 1153 g and an American 1453 g.
In the face of such data, one cannot remain inactive. The need for greater and broader awareness of the issue is clear and obvious. When asked how they perceive and think about food waste, respondents give different answers. 77% of Italians consider food waste immoral, as do 71% of Chinese. Both associate food waste with climate change and excessive and unnecessary waste of resources. Instead, British (83%), Americans (73%) and Canadians (80%) focus more on the economic damage caused by food waste.
Although in recent years there has been a real increase in awareness and concern about this issue – with a positive trend seen especially in Italy, where 73% are willing to pay a higher price for packaging that can store food longer – it is still not enough and we are still far from the goal of zero hunger.
According to UNEP’s 2021 Food Waste Index, the world produces 931 million tons of wasted food per year. Of that, 509 million tons comes from households, while only 244 tons comes from restaurants and 118 tons from retailers.
Which means that the greatest waste of food comes from us, the consumers. Therefore, a greater and widespread education on the subject is necessary to develop a series of good habits:
- Share large meals at restaurants and do not leave your leftovers, ask for a doggy bag!
- Be smart about shopping. Make a list and buy only what you really need.
- Buy even “ugly” fruits and vegetables, they are not as bad as they look.
- When you stuck up the refrigerator, put the older products in the front and the new ones in the back.
- Read the date well: “Best before” means the quality of the food is better before that date, but it does not mean you cannot eat it after that.
- If you have too much food, share it with someone, or donate it!
- Instead of throwing them away, re-cook your meals
Moreover, the research also outlined the generalized lack of consumer’s trust in innovative and technological projects aimed at reducing food waste, such as app like Too Good To Go.
We need to become more aware of our actions and remember that every meal we throw away is a wasted meal that could have made someone else happy. And if we think that we cannot make a difference in our own small way, we are wrong. Every good habit we adopt has a fundamental impact, and it’s only with these small steps that we can truly begin to reduce food waste.