Lack of awareness and insufficient regulations are two of five major drivers contributing to the global food waste problem.
Lack of awareness and insufficient regulations are two of five major drivers contributing to the phenomenal growth of the global food waste problem. A new report, released this week by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), shows that without urgent action, food waste is expected to grow to 2.1 billion tonnes worth USD 1.5 trillion by 2030. The other three identified drivers include inadequate supply chain infrastructure, efficiency efforts that do not focus on waste, and weak collaboration.
The impact of food waste today is estimated to be about 1.6 billion tonnes, or USD 1.2 trillion USD annually, around one third of current global food production. This is already a major challenge for issues of sustainability and climate action. Food waste is reported to represent 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The report is based on a detailed model and shows that across the value chain, from production through to consumption, significant losses occur at each step. Through the model, it is shown that more waste occurs at the retail and consumer stage in wealthy nations, and in developing countries, losses at the production phase are higher. Shalini Unnikrishnan, partner and managing director at BCG said, “The scale of the problem is one that will continue to grow while we’re developing our solutions. As wealth grows, people are demanding more food, more diverse food, food that is not grown locally. That’s going to increase food loss and waste.”
The figures are alarming not only for the current problem that it sheds light on, but also the rate at which they are growing, so much so that the UN has recognized this in its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Within SDG 12, the UN calls to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level and reduce food losses along the supply chain by 2030.
The EU and its member states have committed to this SDG and have set out an action plan, including developing a common methodology to measure losses, clarify existing legislation, provide more support for solutions such as food donation, and facilitate inter-sector cooperation. Lastly the EU will seek to improve date marking practices and consumer understanding around ‘best before’ dates, a significant contributing factor to food waste.
Solutions exist, but they are complicated, requiring dedicated effort from consumers, companies, farmers, governments, and international bodies. The report’s authors state that a coordinated global effort will be required to take steps towards reducing losses by a possible USD 700 million, approaching the UN’s goal. The report also offers a list of concrete actions that companies can take as a leadership role in addressing the problem.