Funding assistance to help build climate resilience in Central Asia
June 18 is Sustainable Gastronomy Day, an international celebration of local cuisine produced in a way that is both environmentally friendly and minimizes waste. This last part is becoming more and more important. A recent report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) revealed that the world is in the throes of a food waste epidemic. In 2019, consumers threw away nearly a billion tonnes of food, or 17% of all tickets they bought.
This is deeply problematic in a world where 690 million people were undernourished in 2019, a number that is expected to rise sharply with COVID-19. It is also bad for the planet. About 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of food that is ultimately thrown away.
UNEP recently met with two of the authors of the 2021 Food Waste Index report: Clementine O’Connor, food systems expert with UNEP, and Tom Quested, analyst with the non-profit organization WRAP. They talked about what the world can do to end the scourge of food waste.
UNEP: What are the main conclusions of the 2021 report on the food waste index?
Tom asked: A mind-boggling 17 percent of all food available for human consumption is wasted. If you can imagine 23 million fully loaded 40-ton trucks – bumper to bumper, enough to circle the earth seven times – then that’s what we’re talking about. The report estimates that in 2019, 61% of food waste was generated by households, 26% by restaurants and 13% by retail.
UNEP: Why is food waste important?
Clementine O’Connor: Even before COVID-19, some 690 million people around the world were undernourished. Three billion people cannot afford healthy food. Uneaten food is a pure waste of energy and resources that could be put to better use. Reducing food waste at the retail, restaurant and household level can have many-sided benefits for people and the planet. So far, the opportunities offered by reducing food waste have remained largely untapped and under-exploited.
UNEP: Is it a rich world problem, or is it more prevalent?
O’Connor: An important finding of the study is that household food waste per capita is broadly similar across country income groups (as defined by the World Bank), suggesting that action on food waste is all about it. also relevant in high and middle income countries. This severely breaks with the previous decade’s narrative that household food waste is a rich country problem – and underscores the need for middle-income countries to measure benchmarks and develop national food waste prevention strategies. food. Providing technical support to help countries get started, UNEP is launching regional food waste working groups in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, West Asia and Asia-Pacific.
UNEP: What are the main data gaps?
Questioned: Most governments around the world have not collected strong enough data to advocate for action. Even fewer have the data to track food waste trends over time. However, there have been an increasing number of national food waste estimates in recent years. Areas with higher data coverage include Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In contrast, North Africa, Central Asia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia and the Caribbean do not have estimates available. Data in the retail and restaurant sectors are also much more limited than for households. As measurement is an important first step in taking action on this important issue, much more measurement is needed.
UNEP: What’s the difference between food waste and food loss?
O’Connor: Food loss occurs throughout the food supply chain, from harvest to the retail level, but not included. Food waste occurs at the retail, restaurant and consumer level.
UNEP: How does food waste compromise sustainable development?
Questioned: Food waste generates all the environmental impacts of food production (intensive use and pollution of land and water resources, exacerbation of biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions) without any of the benefits of feeding people. Food waste therefore compromises sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal 12, Target 12.3, aims to halve global food waste per capita at retail and consumer level and reduce food loss along production and supply chains, including including post-harvest losses by 2030.
UNEP: Why should I reduce my food waste? How can I get started?
O’Connor: Reducing food waste at home is one of the easiest ways to reduce your personal impact on the climate. You eat – and make food decisions – at least three times a day. A few simple ways to get started:
Buy only what you need: Check your fridge before buying groceries (or add them to your online shopping cart when you notice something missing) to avoid impulse shopping. If you can, buy fresh food regularly and top it up as needed, rather than trying to get specific amounts from a bulk store.
Use what you buy: get the correct portion size using a measuring cup for rice, couscous or pasta. Cook Creatively With Leftovers: Many recipes are flexible enough to soak up the withered veggies in the back of your fridge. Most leftovers will go in a taco, sandwich, curry, frittata, or pasta sauce, and make into a sauce or relish. More and more, chefs are thinking about preventing food waste when sharing new recipes. Make good use of your freezer: Food can be frozen until its expiration date or if it still looks tasty, if it has no date. When you walk into a restaurant, you’re on the right side of the story when asking for a smaller portion or a doggy bag, so don’t hesitate to do so.
How will you monitor progress?
O’Connor: Food waste data related to SDG 12.3 will be collected using the United Nations Statistics Division / UNEP questionnaire on environment statistics. The questionnaire is sent every two years to national statistical offices and ministries of the environment, who will designate a single focal point for food waste in the country to coordinate data collection and reporting. The data will be made public in the global SDG database and in the UNEP Food Waste Index report, which will be published at regular intervals until 2030. The next questionnaire will be sent to Member States in September 2022, and the results will be reported to the SDG Global Database by February 2023.