Food waste or food loss is food material that is discarded or unable to be used. Various political organizations and entities have their own definition of what constitutes food waste. The causes of wasted food are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, and retailing. As of 2011, 1.3 billion tons of food, about one third of the global food production, is lost or wasted annually. Loss and wastage occurs on all steps in the food supply chain. In low-income countries, most loss occurs during production, while in developed countries much food – about 100 kilograms (220 lb) per person and year – is wasted at the consumption stage. Definitions of food waste vary, among other things, in what food waste consists of, how it is produced, and where or what it is discarded from or generated by. Definitions also vary because certain groups do not consider (or have traditionally not considered) food waste to be a waste material, due to its applications. Some definitions of what food waste consists of are based on other waste definitions (e.g. agricultural waste) and which materials do not meet their definitions. Here are some of the facts about the wastage of food:
•If we planted trees on land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food, this would offset a theoretical maximum of 100% of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion. •10% of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never eaten. •UK Households waste around 20% of all the food they buy – but the good news is that this suggests a 17% reduction since 2007. •Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. •Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). •The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
In developing and developed countries which operate either commercial or industrial agriculture, food waste can occur at most stages of the food industry and in significant amounts. In subsistence agriculture, the amounts of food waste are unknown, but are likely to be insignificant by comparison, due to the limited stages at which waste can occur, and given that food is grown for projected need as opposed to a global marketplace demand. Nevertheless, on-farm losses in storage in developing countries, particularly in African countries, can be high although the exact nature of such losses is much debated. Research into the food industry of the United States, whose food supply is the most diverse and abundant of any country in the world, found food waste occurring at the beginning of food production. From planting, crops can be subjected to pest infestations and severe weather, which cause losses before harvest. Since natural forces (e.g. temperature and precipitation) remain the primary drivers of crop growth, losses from these can be experienced by all forms of outdoor agriculture. The use of machinery in harvesting can cause waste, as harvesters may be unable to discern between ripe and immature crops, or collect only part of a crop. Economic factors, such as regulations and standards for quality and appearance, also cause food waste; farmers often harvest selectively, preferring to leave crops not to standard in the field (where they can be used as fertilizer or animal feed), since they would otherwise be discarded later. One way of dealing with food waste is to reduce its creation. This attitude has been promoted by campaigns from advisory and environmental groups, and by concentrated media attention on the subject. Consumers can reduce their food waste output at points-of-purchase and in their homes by adopting some simple measures; planning when shopping for food is important, and spontaneous purchases are shown as often the most wasteful. Proper knowledge of food storage reduces foods becoming inedible and thrown away. Through initiatives such as Cambio verde, farmers can provide surplus produce (produce they would otherwise discard due to too low prices/kg) to people that provide glass, and other waste.