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27 Feb 2020

It has been estimated that if food waste was a country it would be the third highest polluter after China and the US. Why is so much food wasted? Can the industry do more?

Food waste is a major blocker on the path to sustainability. As reported in the BBC, tt has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. One third of greenhouse emissions globally come from agriculture, and 30% of the food we produce is wasted – about 1.8 billion tonnes of it a year. If, as a planet, we stopped wasting food altogether, we’d eliminate 8% of our total emissions.

In the middle and high income countries, the large portion of food waste happens in the household, accounting for 53% of all food waste in Europe alone. However, poor infrastructure means that in lower income countries 40% of food is wasted after it is harvested but before it makes it into consumers homes. Could greater investment in infrastructure help reduce this amount significantly?

“I don't think people are completely aware of [the climate impacts of food waste],” says Mattias Eriksson, who researches food waste at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala. “But I think the problem is even bigger, because most people, they don't actually waste food, according to themselves.”

But a lack of precise data shouldn’t stop us trying to tackle the problem, says Parizeau. “We know just by the audits that we've done, it is excessive,” she says. “There's so much edible food that ends up in the trash.”

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