Food waste is a global problem from every point of view, as it involves every step of the food supply chain and leaves nearly one billion people hungry and, in many cases, deprived of their land. Food waste has reached frightening proportions: one third of all food produced in the world is wasted.
In the Global North there is an excess of food produced and bought which is often thrown out even before it perishes. According to the FAO, food wastage amounts to between 280 – 300 kilos per capita each year, touching every phase of production: from the harvest, to processing and distribution, all the way to our kitchens.
In the Global South, on the other hand, food is wasted for lack of adequate infrastructure, storage facilities and transport. But food is also wasted by pitting the production of biofuels, biogas and large quantities of feed for animals against food for humans. In some parts of the planet, this competition is heavily biased towards the interests of speculators and agribusiness.
In addition to being a problem of great ethical value, food waste necessarily leads to senseless pressure on natural resources, the planet, and the environment. To produce too much means to use more energy and prime materials than necessary: this wasting of resources is then amplified during the distribution phase, then in our homes, and finally in waste management.
Food wastage is responsible for roughly 5% of the emissions that cause global warming, and for 20% of the pressure on biodiversity. A full 30% of the land dedicated to agriculture is used to produce food that never arrives at its destination, while the use of water of wasted food (that is, the consumption of surface and ground water resources) is about 250 cubic kilometers per year, equal to three times the volume of Lake Geneva.
Food waste is the most evident symptom of a distorted and unsustainable food system that treats food as merchandise and that has deprived it of all cultural, social, and environmental values throughout all phases of the agricultural supply chain.
In order to reverse course and fight food wastage, we must first clearly understand its causes, measure it, and ask every single person involved, from producers to institutions, from citizens to retailers, to work on breaking the schemes that are currently in place.