Reducing consumer food waste could save between US$120 billion and US$300 billion per year by 2030, according to a new report by The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
To achieve this would require a 20-50% reduction in consumer food waste.
One third of all food produced in the world ends up as waste, while the value of global consumer food waste is more than US$400 billion per year.
As the global middle class expands over the course of the decade, the cost could rise to US$600 billion, according to new research conducted by WRAP for the Global Commission.
Their report, Strategies to achieve economic and environmental gains by reducing food waste, identifies significant opportunities to improve economic performance and tackle climate change by reducing the amount of food that is wasted in agriculture, transport, storage and consumption.
“Food waste is a global issue and tackling it is a priority. This report emphasizes the benefits that can be obtained for businesses, consumers and the environment,” says Dr Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems.
“The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings.”
“In partnership with United Nations Environment Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, WRAP produced international guidance on how to achieve that through implementing effective food waste prevention strategies that can be used across the world.”
“Consumers also have a role to play. In the UK, where we are based, the majority of food waste occurs in the home,” he says.
“Through our consumer campaign Love Food Hate Waste we empower consumers with advice and tips on how to waste less and save more.”
“Between 2007 and 2012, this helped householders reduce avoidable food waste by 21%, saving a total of £13 billion (US$19.78 billion).”
Food waste on climate change
Reducing food waste can also make a significant contribution to tackling climate change.
About 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), or 3.3 billion tons carbon dioxide equivalent CO2eq per year, is due to food waste.
WRAP estimates that by 2030 global GHGs could be lowered by at least 0.2 and possibly as much as one billion tons CO2eq per year through food waste reductions, more than the annual emissions of Germany.
When food waste is decreased, this makes it more likely that an increasing population can potentially be fed from the same amount of land.
“Reducing food waste is good for the economy and good for the climate. Less food waste means greater efficiency, more productivity, and direct savings for consumers,” says Helen Mountford, global programme director for the New Climate Economy.
“It also means more food available to feed the estimated 805 million that go to bed hungry each day.”
“Reducing food waste is also a great way to reduce the GHGs that contribute to climate change. These findings should serve as a wakeup call to policymakers around the world.”
The report highlights how practical changes, such as lowering the average temperatures of refrigerators or designing better packaging, can make a considerable difference in preventing spoilage.
Approximately 25% of food waste in the developing world could be eliminated with better refrigeration equipment.
WRAP’s findings contributed to Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report.
This report, released in 2014 by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, demonstrates how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change.
The report highlighted how reforms in urban development, land use and energy policy would lead to sustained growth in a low-carbon economy.