fredag den 29. december 2023

Friends of Europe - From farm to fork, let’s unite against food waste

by Selina Juul, Founder of Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark

The world celebrates its annual United Nations International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on 29 September. And yet, we need to remember that the fight against food waste must be fought every day – and not only one day a year.

Should food waste reduction efforts focus on food production or consumption? And what about prevention efforts? Who is responsible for minimizing food losses and food waste? Why is it so important to prevent and reduce waste?

Let’s serve some facts. Food waste perpetuates ethical, economic and environmental issues. By limiting food waste, we can alleviate four problems at once.

First, it is ethically irresponsible to waste food, given that so many people worldwide are food insecure. According to the UN, around 8.9% of the world’s population – approximately 690 mn people – go to bed on an empty stomach. If current trends continue at pace, this figure will exceed 840 mn people by the year 2030.

Second, food waste is money in the trash. According to Eurostat, in the EU alone, nearly 59 mn tonnes of food waste are generated annually – which amounts to 131kg per inhabitant – with an associated market value estimated at €132 bn. On the global scale, according to the UN, global food losses and waste and waste are estimated at US $750 bn annually.

Third, food waste has a significant carbon footprint. Food waste accounts for an estimated 16% of the EU food system’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, according to the UN, food losses and food waste are responsible for 8% to 10% of the world’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. To put this into perspective: if food waste represented its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind only China and the United States.

Finally, food waste drains resources – including water, land, energy, transportation and labour – from farm to table, contributing to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, and thereby global warming and climate change. According to the UN, three main socio-economic factors are driving the increasing demand for food: population growth, increasing urbanization and rising incomes. By 2050, the world’s population will reach at least nine billion, with more than 70% expected to live in urban areas, and global food production will need to increase by 70% to meet need. The future of agriculture and the ability to ensure food security for the world’s growing population is closely linked to better management of natural resources. In this regard, the reduction of food waste and efficient utilization of produced food must be key priorities.

A recent Gallup survey, conducted by Kantar Public for the Stop Wasting Food movement (Stop Spild Af Mad) in relation to the movement’s 15th anniversary, revealed that 94% of the Danes – almost the entire Danish population – feel that there is more focus on food waste in Denmark today than 15 years ago.

Today, compared to 15 years ago, almost the entire Danish food value chain from farm to fork is involved in the fight against food waste. From REMA 1000 retail chain’s end of the bulk discounts to selling ‘wonky’ vegetables, the fight against food waste is mostly everywhere in Denmark.

Further action must be taken at scale. In July 2023, the European Commission proposed a legally binding target to reduce food waste by 30% by 2030 across the entire EU. This is indeed an exciting new step.

How can policies on food production and consumption complement one another to address food waste across the entire food value chain? There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Food waste must be tackled in several ways through innovation, technology, legislation and financing. The entire food value chain – from farm to fork, including consumers – holds responsibility for reducing and preventing food losses and food waste. The bottom line is that we need to unite against food waste – every day of every year – by making the act of wasting food socially unacceptable.