• World
  • Apr 01

World wastes over 1 billion meals a day

• Households across all continents wasted over one billion meals a day in 2022, while 783 million people were affected by hunger and a third of humanity faced food insecurity. 

• Food waste continues to hurt the global economy and fuel climate change, nature loss, and pollution. 

• These were the key findings of the UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report 2024.

Food Waste Index Report

• The UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024, co-authored with Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), provides the most accurate global estimate on food waste at retail and consumer levels. WRAP is a global NGO based in the UK.

• The report provides guidance for countries on improving data collection and suggests best practices in moving from measuring to reducing food waste. 

• The report provides the most accurate global estimate on food waste at retail and consumer levels. It provides guidance for countries on improving data collection and suggests best practices in moving from measuring to reducing food waste.

• To catalyse essential action towards reducing food waste and achieving SDG 12.3, it’s imperative to grasp the extent of food waste. 

• Measuring food waste allows countries to comprehend the magnitude of the issue, thereby revealing the size of the opportunity, while establishing a baseline for tracking progress. 

• The Food Waste Index Report 2021 marked a pivotal moment in understanding global food waste across retail, food service, and household sectors. 

• It unveiled a greater availability of food waste data than anticipated, particularly at the household level, and revealed that per capita household food waste generation was more consistent worldwide than previously thought.

Key points of the report:

• In 2022 there were 1.05 billion tonnes of food waste generated (including inedible parts), amounting to 132 kilograms per capita and almost one-fifth of all food available to consumers. 

• Even as food is being thrown away at scale, up to 783 million people are affected by hunger each year, and 150 million children under the age of five  suffer stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets.

• Out of the total food wasted in 2022, 60 per cent happened at the household level, with food services responsible for 28 per cent and retail 12 per cent.

• The data confirms that food waste is not just a ‘rich country’ problem, with levels of household food waste differing in observed average levels for high-income, upper-middle, and lower-middle-income countries by just 7 kg per capita. 

• At the same time, hotter countries appear to generate more food waste per capita in households, potentially due to higher consumption of fresh foods with substantial inedible parts and a lack of robust cold chains.

• According to recent data, food loss and waste generates 8-10 per cent of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — almost five times that of the aviation sector — and significant biodiversity loss by taking up the equivalent of almost a third of the world’s agricultural land. 

• The toll of both food loss and waste on the global economy is estimated at roughly $1 trillion.

• Urban areas are expected to particularly benefit from efforts to strengthen food waste reduction and circularity. 

• Rural areas generally waste less food, with greater diversion of food scraps to pets, livestock, and home composting as likely explanations.

• As of 2022, only 21 countries have included food loss and/or waste reduction in their national climate plans (NDCs). The 2025 NDCs revision process provides a key opportunity to raise climate ambition by integrating food loss and waste. 

• The Food Waste Index Report underscores the urgency of addressing food waste at both individual and systemic levels.

• Food waste is an economic, environmental and social problem. Reducing food waste is an opportunity to reduce costs and tackle some of the biggest environmental and social issues of our time — fighting climate change and addressing food insecurity.

• Halving food waste is a job that is too large for any one stakeholder. However, it can be achieved through concerted, collaborative effort to commit to the SDG 12.3 target, accurately measure food waste, and most importantly act to achieve food waste reduction.

• Reducing food waste, redistributing surplus, and more equitable distribution of the food already produced should be understood as crucial instruments for alleviating food insecurity worldwide.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

• The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global authority on the environment. It unites 193 Member States in an effort to find solutions to climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, collectively known as the triple planetary crisis.

• UNEP was founded in 1972. It was conceived to monitor the state of the environment and coordinate responses to the world’s greatest environmental challenges.

• UNEP is part of the UN Secretariat and responds to the UN General Assembly.

• Its headquarters is situated in Nairobi, Kenya.

• UNEP’s primary goal is to catalyze action on the environment and promote solutions to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

• Through scientific studies, policy support, inter-governmental coordination and public advocacy, UNEP helps humanity to foster climate stability, live in harmony with nature and forge a pollution-free future, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

• In the five decades since its founding, UNEP’s convening power, rigorous scientific research and public advocacy have helped to boldly advance the global environmental agenda. In particular, UNEP has led efforts to counter climate change, protect endangered species, end deforestation, repair the hole in the ozone layer and phase out toxic leaded fuels.

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