Despite the progress made in recent years, food waste remains a major problem worldwide. According to FAO and UNEP estimates, in fact, 931 million tons of food waste were produced in 2019. Food waste has various causes and also produces important effects at the environmental level. Consider, for example, the pollution produced by the disposal of such quantities of food waste or the impact of emissions from the means of transporting food and food waste. Adnkronos and Expleo’s Datafactor conducted a survey on the phenomenon of food waste starting from the analysis of data provided by different sources: FAO, UNEP, ISTAT and To Good To Go.
Almost 20% of food is wasted
The data on food waste is alarming. Every year, 931 million tons of food waste is generated worldwide. Of these, 61% are produced by households, 26% by catering and 13% by retail. In total, it is estimated that 17% of the food produced in the world is wasted. This means that around 160 million tons of food are thrown away every year. Food waste is a global problem that not only affects world hunger, but also the consequences that this waste has on the environment.
2021 data on food waste
The African continent is the one that records the greatest waste of food at the household level, with 100 kg per person per year. According to UNEP, there are two main reasons for this: the inadequate sampling of the poorest population and the fact that the data also includes the inedible parts of food that are often not subject to transformation and reuse in poorer countries. In the catering sector, the most wasteful continents are Asia, America and Africa, with 28 kg of food wasted per person per year. Finally, in the retail trade, the highest level of food waste is recorded in Asia with 17 kg per person per year. Europe in this sector is the least wasteful, with 13 kg per person per year.
The situation in Europe
According to the Food Waste Index for 2021, Greece holds the sad record of domestic food waste, with 142 kg of food thrown away per person every year. Followed by Malta with 129 kg and Cyprus with 95 kg The most virtuous is Slovenia with “only” 34 kg wasted per person. Italy ranks well in this ranking, with 67 kg per person per year, in fact, we are among the 8 EU countries that waste less. A fact that places us well below large countries such as Germany (75 kg per person per year), Spain (77 kg) e France (85 kg). Our country has done even better in the retail sector where we are the most virtuous EU country with a food waste of only 4 kg per person per year. In this sector the worst are Denmark and France with 30 and 26 kg of food wasted per person per year respectively. Finally, in the food service sector the highest value is recorded in Ireland with 56 kg per person per year.
Waste in production processes
Food waste also affects catering, retail trade, but also what occurs in the phases preceding the sale: transport and storage of food. According to FAO data updated to 2020, Europe, with 7.03%, is the continent that records the least food waste compared to other continents. Africa is the one that suffers the most. This is mainly due to the lack of adequate technology and infrastructure in many parts of the continent. The situation is particularly serious in some countries, where the percentage of wasted food is over 18%. This is a problem that needs to be addressed urgently, in order to guarantee the right to food for all African citizens.
The environmental impact
Food waste is a serious problem that has a negative impact on the environment. Discarded foods become waste to be disposed of, with all the resulting polluting consequences. According to FAO data, lhe Spain is the country with the highest number of methane emissions related to the disposal of food waste, followed by Greece and Italy. This is an alarming fact that makes us reflect on the importance of reducing food waste to safeguard the environment.
CO2 emissions related to transport
There are several factors that contribute to air pollution, but one of the main ones is certainly that linked to the transport of food. Every year, the means of transport that are used to transport food emit a huge amount of carbon dioxide CO2 into the atmosphere. According to data from 2019, the most polluting countries of the European Union are France, Italy and Germany, with values that far exceed the EU average. This phenomenon is of particular concern because the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to the greenhouse effect, which in turn causes global warming. Therefore, it is clear that something needs to be done to reduce the transport of food and, in general, the consumption of fossil fuels.
The foods that are wasted the most
It is estimated that around 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted each year worldwide. This is alarming, especially when you consider that there are millions of people suffering from hunger. Most of the foods that are wasted are fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, cereals. Dairy products, on the other hand, are the least wasted food category. Much can be done to reduce food waste, for example by donating surplus food to people in need or by composting organic waste.