household waste

The recent release of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2024 sheds light on the concerning global trend of food wastage. According to the report, one-fifth of the world’s total food available in 2022 went to waste, amounting to a staggering 1.05 billion tonnes, equivalent to 19 percent of food available to consumers at various levels including retail, food service, and households.

This wastage contrasts starkly with the fact that 783 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, while a third of the global population faces food insecurity. Households emerge as a significant contributor to this issue, with the report indicating that they are the primary culprits in overall food wastage. The report estimates that households squander the equivalent of at least one billion meals of edible food each day, accounting for 631 million tonnes of food wasted in 2022.

Additionally, the food service sector wasted 290 million tonnes, while the retail sector wasted 131 million tonnes during the same period. Moreover, the report highlights a correlation between hotter climates and higher per capita food waste in households. It suggests that factors such as elevated seasonal temperatures, extreme heat events, and droughts pose challenges in storing, processing, transporting, and selling food safely.

Interestingly, the observed average levels of household food waste show minimal variation among high-income, upper-middle-income, and lower-middle-income countries, emphasizing that food waste is not solely a problem confined to affluent nations. In response to these findings, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, emphasizes the global significance of addressing food waste, labeling it as a “global tragedy.”

She stresses the urgent need for action, noting that millions suffer from hunger while vast quantities of food are squandered needlessly, causing substantial environmental and economic costs. Andersen expresses optimism, stating that prioritizing this issue can lead to significant reductions in food loss and waste, thereby mitigating climate impacts and accelerating progress towards global goals.