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Food Waste: The Facts

By United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office of North America

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When we scrape off our dishes after a large meal, too full to finish the remaining scraps on our plate, we rarely pause and think about the significance of our action. It seems routine to us: if we have leftover food scraps that are unfit for eating, shouldn’t they be thrown in the garbage? Our routine practices, unfortunately, make it difficult for us to conceptualize the magnitude of global food waste.  The problem is bigger than we think.

According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten. In a world full of hunger, volatile food prices , and social unrest, these statistics are more than just shocking:  they are environmentally, morally and economically outrageous.

Let’s start with some basic statistics about food waste in North America and around the world.

Worldwide Food Waste Facts

  • Every year, consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tons)
  • The amount of food lost and wasted every year is equal to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crops (2.3 billion tons in 2009/10)
  • More facts

North American Food Waste Facts

  • In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions
  • In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month
  • More facts

Needless to say, the numbers are not promising. But don’t be disheartened! As consumers, we can do a lot to change the situation.   

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Think. Be a smart shopper and think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten. Wasting food is often a subconscious act – become aware of how much food you throw away. Plan meals and use shopping lists. Bring your leftovers home from restaurants in reusable containers.

Eat. Become a more mindful eater.  Eyes bigger than your stomach? Request smaller portions and become a leftovers guru.

Save. Save your food, save your money and save the environment. Donate to food banks and become a conscious consumer.

If you want to read more about the Think.Eat.Save food waste campaign, follow this link and get involved!

 

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