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Foodservice fuels global food waste

Over a billion meals a day were wasted globally in 2022 with the foodservice sector the main contributor outside of people’s homes.

In 2022, there were 1.05 billion tonnes of food waste generated throughout the world, including inedible parts, amounting to 132 kilograms per capita and representing almost one-fifth of all food available to people. This is in addition to the 13% of the world’s food lost in the supply chain. Of this wasted food, 60% happened at the household level, with foodservice responsible for 28% and retail 12%.

The data was published in the newly released UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024, co-authored with WRAP, which is billed as providing the most accurate global estimate on food waste at retail and consumer levels.

As well as damaging the global economy, food waste continues to fuel climate change, nature loss, and pollution. Food loss and waste is estimated to generate 8-10% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions – almost five times that of the aviation sector – and significant biodiversity loss by taking up the equivalent of almost a third of the world’s agricultural land. As of 2022, only 21 countries have included food loss and/or waste reduction in their national climate plans (NDCs).

The data confirmed that food waste is not just a ‘rich country’ problem, with levels of household food waste differing in observed average levels for high-income, upper-middle, and lower-middle-income countries by just 7 kg per capita.

Despite recent improvements in data, UNEP said many low- and middle-income countries continue to lack adequate systems for tracking progress to meeting the sustainable development goal 12.3 ambition of halving food waste by 2030. Only four G20 countries (Australia, Japan, UK and USA) and the European Union have food waste estimates suitable for tracking progress to 2030.

“Food waste is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature. The good news is we know if countries prioritise this issue, they can significantly reverse food loss and waste, reduce climate impacts and economic losses, and accelerate progress on global goals.”