Tackling food waste

Tackling food waste

February 05, 2021

Tackling food waste

February 5th is Italian National Food Waste Prevention Day, an opportunity to reflect on a subject that is central to the debate about global sustainability. 

Food waste is one of the great paradoxes of the food system. Around 1/3 of all the food produced is in fact lost or wasted somewhere along the supply chain that goes from Farm to Fork, to mention an important and recent European initiative, in different ways depending on the country and social context. 

International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste is celebrated on September 29th, but there is no shortage of national initiatives, including the Italian National Food Waste Prevention Day, now in its 8th year, planned for February 5th. 

Forum 2021 will take place on a digital platform, on the initiative of the Last Minute Market Zero Waste campaign in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the World Food Programme Italy, and other important partners. 

“Stop food waste. One health, one planet” is the subject of the 2021 edition, defined by the coordinators themselves as “an important date to look at the prevention and reduction of waste as a key element in safeguarding human and environmental health.”

How much is wasted in Italy...

During the Italian food waste prevention event, updated data on the “case of Italy” will be shown that has been collected and processed by the Waste Watcher observatory. These figures provide “a snapshot of our country that quantifies the incidence of food waste in homes” explain the organizers.

According to these data, in Italy today 66% of Italians think that there is a connection between food waste, environmental and human health and 36% pay attention to the wholesomeness of food and its impact on health when they buy food.

With regard to waste, the 'Food and social innovation’ survey conducted by Fondazione Feltrinelli with the Cirfood permanent observatory, shows that every Italian wastes 27.5 kg of food per year, while food waste in retail outlets amounts to around 220,000 metric tons per year, around 2.89 kg per person, per year. A similar assessment carried out by the Barilla Foundation in collaboration with the Economist, which uses different calculation parameters, estimates food waste to be as high as 65 kg per year

A recent Coldiretti/Ixè survey however sounds a positive note: 54% of Italians have reduced food waste. How? By eating leftovers, paying more attention to the expiry date, making more targeted purchases and donating uneaten food products to charity. This may also be due to the pandemic, which has at least partially changed food behavior and attention to waste 

...and across the world

According to Food Sustainability Index data, resulting from a collaboration between the Barilla Foundation and Economist Intelligence Unit, Italy is halfway down the list (31st out of 67 countries analyzed) in terms of the composite index of food loss and waste. Among the most virtuous countries, France is at the top of the list, while Malta comes last. 

Regardless of the rankings, however, one fact emerges clearly: food waste is still very high. The European average per capita food waste is 58 kg per year, but many countries deviate considerably from these values, including Belgium (87kg) and the United States (95kg).

88 million metric tons of food produced are wasted in the European Union (EU)  every year (over 20% of food produced in the EU) and major contributors to this waste definitely include households (53%), although there is no lack of waste in food processing (19%), the retail trade (17%) and primary production (11%). 

Then there are losses along the supply chain, 3% of the EU's total food production, with the lowest levels in Finland (less than 1%) and the highest in Slovenia (11%). In terms of losses, the EU average is lower than that of high-income countries, which is close to 5%: the performances of Australia (1%), the United States (1%) and Canada (2%) were excellent, while those of the United Arab Emirates (59%), Saudi Arabia (12%) and South Korea (8%) are decidedly worse. 

Food is not the only thing wasted/lost

A commitment to sustainable development and waste prevention also requires behavior and data to be monitored. This cultural change is a necessary step toward reducing domestic food waste, which accounts for approximately 50% of the total food waste on the planet,” explains Andrea Segrè, the founder of Last Minute Market. “The 17 Sustainability Goals of the United Nations are before us and the coming decade will be decisive for tackling them: waste prevention and sustainable development require a joint commitment on the part the planet’s governments and citizens" continues the expert , emphasizing the close link between food waste/loss and the achievement of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Finally, it is important to remember that food waste also translates into huge financial losses (143 billion euros of food wasted per year in the EU and 6.5 billion in Italy alone) and extensive damage to the environment, in many cases incalculable (6% of total greenhouse gas emissions by the EU are connected with food waste). 

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Find out more about Food and sustainability

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