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UN: global food waste emissions greater than US transport sector

Around 1.3bn tonnes of food is wasted on an annual basis, warn UNEP and the FAO

(Pic: Flickr/Sporkist)

The global carbon footprint of food waste is more than twice the size of the greenhouse gas emissions from the US transport sector, says the UN.

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates food waste accounts for 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e).

It also highlights the staggering levels of water used in the production of cereals, meat and other foodstuffs on an annual basis, equal to the flow of Russia’s Volga River.

Increased land degradation, the loss of biodiversity and growing hunger levels are also consequences of inefficient food production practices, which waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year.

“All of us – farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments and individual consumers  must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day.”

According to the FAO, 54% of the world’s food wastage occurs “upstream” during production, post-harvest handling and storage.

Around 46% of it happens “downstream,” at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

The data suggests developing countries tend to suffer greater food losses during agricultural production, while richer nations waste more food at the retail and consumption end.

According to the UN, the average carbon footprint of food wastage is about 500 kg CO2 eq. per capita.

Wastage of cereals in Asia is a significant problem, specifically rice, which is linked to high methane emissions.

The meat sector generates a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and Latin America.

Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

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