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Monday, April 22, 2024

Households worldwide waste more than 1 billion meals a day

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In a stark revelation of global proportions, a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has unveiled that households worldwide wasted over 1 billion meals each day in 2022.


This staggering figure stands in stark contrast to the sobering reality that 783 million people grappled with hunger, while a third of the world’s population faced food insecurity.


The UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024, co-authored with WRAP, sheds light on the harrowing impact of food waste on a global scale.


Published ahead of the International Day of Zero Waste, on 30 March, the report highlights the detrimental consequences of food wastage on the global economy and its role in exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental pollution.


According to the report, a staggering 1.05 billion tonnes of food waste, including inedible parts, were generated in 2022 alone. This amounts to 132 kilograms per capita and nearly one-fifth of all food available to consumers.


Shockingly, the majority of this waste, 60 percent, occurred at the household level, with food services and retail accounting for 28 percent and 12 percent, respectively.


Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, lamented, “Food waste is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world.” She emphasized the urgent need for countries to prioritize addressing this issue, citing the significant costs to both the climate and nature.


Despite efforts to improve data infrastructure since 2021, many low- and middle-income countries still lack adequate systems for tracking progress toward Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of halving food waste by 2030.


Only a handful of G20 countries and the European Union have suitable estimates for monitoring progress, highlighting the need for consistent measurement and reporting mechanisms.


The report also challenges the misconception that food waste is solely a problem of affluent nations, revealing that levels of household food waste vary minimally across high-income, upper-middle, and lower-middle-income countries.


Moreover, regions with warmer climates tend to generate more household food waste, potentially due to higher consumption of perishable foods and inadequate cold chain infrastructure.


Efforts to combat food waste stand to benefit urban areas disproportionately, with rural areas exhibiting lower levels of wastage, attributed in part to greater diversion of food scraps to animals and home composting.


Harriet Lamb, CEO of WRAP, underscored the need for coordinated action across continents and supply chains, stating, “With the huge cost to the environment, society, and global economies caused by food waste, we need greater coordinated action.”


As nations endeavor to meet the ambitious target of halving food waste by 2030, UNEP emphasizes the importance of robust baselines and regular measurement to track progress over time.


Public-private partnerships (PPPs) emerge as a promising tool for driving change, fostering collaboration among various stakeholders to identify solutions and drive progress.


In conclusion, the report underscores the urgent need for concerted global efforts to address food waste, not only to alleviate hunger and food insecurity but also to mitigate its far-reaching environmental and economic consequences.


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