Fascinating Facts about Food Waste

Food Waste Facts

In Australia, 7.6 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year (1). And while 70% of this food is still perfectly edible, 1 in 6 Australian adults haven’t had enough to eat in the last year (2). On top of this, 1.2 million children have gone hungry during the same period (2).

Globally, as many as 811 million people were affected by hunger in 2020 (3), a number expected to rise sharply due to COVID-19. Nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020 (3).

While worldwide hunger continues to rise, an estimated one-third of food produced is lost or wasted, equaling around 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted (4). Sadly, this means the resources used in food production are also wasted. 

To put it simply, there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone. Fighting food waste plays a significant role in fighting hunger. Everyone has a part to play, from production right through to how we as consumers choose to shop, love ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables, and understand food labels. In the wise words of Sir David Attenborough:

The one thing we can all do is to stop waste. Don’t waste food. Don’t waste power. They are precious, and we can’t live without them.

Food is wasted in many ways

  • Food waste includes all food intended for human consumption that never reaches us and edible food that consumers throw away.
  • Perfectly edible fresh produce is often turned away from supermarket shelves because it does not meet the optimal criteria for consumers, such as shape, size and colour.
  • Foods that are close to, at or beyond the “best-before” date are often discarded by retailers and consumers – even though they are still within their “use-by” date.
  • Large quantities of wholesome edible food are often unused or leftover and discarded from household kitchens and eating establishments.

Food Waste in Australia

According to National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study:

  • Food waste costs the economy around $36.6 billion or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
  • Australian households account for the majority of food waste (2.46 million tonnes)
  • 70% of the 7.6 million tonnes of food wasted in Australia every year is edible.
  • Australian households throw away around one in five bags of groceries, equal to around 312kg per person. 
  • 17.5 million tonnes of CO2-e is generated annually from the production and disposal of food wasted in Australia (excluding the emissions associated with exported food), equivalent to the annual emissions from Australia’s highest emitting coal-fired power station.
  • Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The amount of water used to grow food that is wasted equals the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours (2600 gigalitres).
  • If we combine the landmass used to grow wasted food in Australia, it is larger than Victoria, which is over 25 million hectares.
  • 25% of the water used in agriculture is used to grow food that is wasted.
  • Did you know throwing away one burger wastes the same amount of water as a 90 minute shower?.

Global food waste & hunger

According to Food and Agriculture Organization:

  • Moderate or severe food insecurity has been climbing slowly for six years and now affects more than 30 percent of the world population.
  • In 2020, the FAO estimates that globally there were 768 million undernourished people and that a healthy diet is out of reach for 3 billion people.
  • The global prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity has been rising since 2014. In 2020 the increase of almost 320 million people in one year was equal to that of the previous five years combined due to the pandemic.
  • Due to lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global food security, around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030.
  • If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, following USA and China (7).
  • Global food waste is responsible for approximately 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (7).
  • Nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural land is currently occupied to produce food that is ultimately never eaten.
  • Global food loss and waste accounts for 6% of annual greenhouse gas emissions (8).
  • Around 45% of the world’s fruit and vegetables go to waste each year (9).
  • Global food loss and waste cost the global economy $990 billion each year (3).
  • There is enough food on the planet for every single person, yet 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry every night (3).

Reducing food waste

  • Reducing food loss and waste is critical to creating a Zero Hunger world and reaching the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • In November 2017, the Australian Government launched a National Food Waste Strategy at Melbourne’s National Food Waste Summit. The strategy provides a framework to support collective action towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030 and aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 on food loss and waste.
  • Here at Foodbank, we play a vitally important role in tackling Australia’s $36.6 billion food waste problem.
  • We work with farmers and growers, right through to retailers, to rescue and redistribute perfectly edible food to Australians in need.
  • Last year, Foodbank redirected or re-purposed 37 million kilograms of food and groceries that would otherwise end up in landfills, helping us save more than 81 million kilograms of CO2 emissions every year.
  • Click here to read more about how Foodbank is fighting food waste in Australia.

Sources

  1.  The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Tackling Australia’s food waste (2021).
  2. Foodbank Hunger Report 2021 
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization, State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World 2020 online summary.
  4.  Food and Agriculture Organization, Global food losses and food waste (2011) 
  5.  Natural Resources Defense Council,WASTED: HOW AMERICA IS LOSING UP TO 40 PERCENT OF ITS FOOD FROM FARM TO FORK TO LANDFILL (2017) 
  6.  FIAL, 2021. The National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study 
  7.  Food and Agriculture Organization, Food wastage footprint & Climate Change (2015)
  8.  Our World Data, Food Waste Emissions (2021)
  9. Too Good To Go, What Food Is Wasted? (2018)
  10. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  11. Australian Government, National Food Waste Strategy (2017)
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