Consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year and help shape a sustainable future, according to a new global campaign to cut food waste launched yesterday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and partners.
The campaign dubbed 'Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint' is in support of the Save Food Initiative to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production and consumption - run by the FAO and trade fair organizer Messe DÃÂ¼sseldorf - and the UN Secretary General's Zero Hunger Initiatives.
The new campaign specifically targets food wasted by consumers, retailers and the hospitality industry.
The campaign harnesses the expertise of organizations such as Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), feeding the 5,000 and other partners, including national governments, who have considerable experience targeting and changing wasteful practices.
Think.Eat.Save aims to accelerate action and provide a global vision and information-sharing portal for the many and diverse initiatives currently underway around the world.
Worldwide, about one-third of all food produced, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems, according to data released by FAO. Food loss occurs mostly at the production stages - harvesting, processing and distribution - while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.
"In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense - economically, environmentally and ethically," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
"Aside from the cost implications, all the land, water, fertilizers and labour needed to grow that food is wasted - not to mention the generation of greenhouse gas emissions produced by food decomposing on landfill and the transport of food that is ultimately thrown away," he added.
"To bring about the vision of a truly sustainable world, we need a transformation in the way we produce and consume our natural resources."
"Together, we can reverse this unacceptable trend and improve lives. In industrialized regions, almost half of the total food squandered, around 300 million tonnes annually, occurs because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit for consumption," said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.
"This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world."
"If we can help food producers to reduce losses through better harvesting, processing, storage, transport and marketing methods, and combine this with profound and lasting changes in the way people consume food, then we can have a healthier and hunger-free world," Graziano da Silva added.
Part of the trigger for the campaign was the outcome of the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, in which Heads of State and governments gave the go-ahead for a 10-Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Patterns.
Developing an SCP programme for the food sector must be a vital element of this framework, given the need to sustain the world's food production base, reduce associated environmental impacts, and feed a growing human population.
"There can be no other area that is perhaps so emblematic of the opportunities for a far more resource-efficient and sustainable world - and there is no other issue that can unite North and South and consumers and producers everywhere in common cause," said Mr. Steiner.
According to FAO, roughly 95 per cent of food loss and waste in developing countries are unintentional losses at early stages of the food supply chain due to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques; storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions; infrastructure; packaging and marketing systems.
However, in the developed world, the end of the chain is far more significant. At the food manufacturing and retail levels, large quantities of food are wasted due to inefficient practices, quality standards that over-emphasize appearance, confusion over date labels, and consumers being quick to throw away edible food due to over-buying, inappropriate storage and preparing meals that are too large.
Per-capita waste by consumers is between 95 and 115 kg a year in Europe and North America/Oceania, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia each throw away only 6 to 11 kg a year.
The campaign website provides simple tips to consumers and retailers, will allow users to make food waste pledges, and provides a platform for those running campaigns to exchange ideas and create a truly global culture of sustainable consumption of food.