Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is going to landfill (2013), which makes up for a total of about 1.3 billion tons of wastage annually. In Singapore alone, humans are wasting more than 140 kg of food per person per year. Singapore imports around 90% of all its food and wastes 30% of it (Accor Hotels, 2018). Ministry of the environment and Waster Resource claims that Singapore generated about 809800 tonnes of food waste in 2017. Currently, Singapore only recycles around 16% of food waste, with 785,500 tonnes of waste going to landfill last year.

The amount of food waste generated in Singapore has risen by 40 percent in the past decade (National Environment Agency, 2019).

The food waste issues not only affect human life but also affect every other species that live on Earth through a variety of processes. Developed countries with a globalized economy can be an obstacle to their social and political progress with large amounts of food waste.

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That is true from the perspective of Singapore, which has been plagued by limited areas.

Environmental Impact

In terms of environmental harm, it can lead to pollution, greenhouse gas emission, water waste, land waste, energy waste, and toxicity. The ecological footprints that food waste create include both upstream and downstream impacts. According to Baldwin and Shakman, upstream environmental impacts refer to a food item before reaching the foodservice operation (2012). These effects are relatively invisible as they are not apparent to operators and other stakeholders. Concerning the upstream effects, when food discarded, all resources used to produce it are also wasted.

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These resources include natural resources that the farmers use for food production such as land, water, fertilizers, pesticides, and the fuel for the tractors; the carbon footprint that the transportation phase costs as well (Baldwin & Shakman, 2012). Food waste generated during processing, distribution and consumption hits landfills and incinerators, which can damage the environment and, leading to many downstream environmental impacts.

Producing, moving, storing, and cooking food uses energy, fuel, and water. Each of which let off greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Every day, food waste that transferred to landfills is accumulated, thus forming a daily cover that falls on old food waste underneath. Without oxygen, this environment is dissolved anaerobically as a food residue. This process emits 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide (Baldwin & Shakman, 2012). All food items emit biogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are potent greenhouse gases. According to FAO, food waste creates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually (2013). Over the last decades, the levels of these gases have been increased and, contributing to a phenomenon known as global warming. As the Earth goes far beyond, many devastating effects continue.

Water footprint

Food requires much water to produce it. By wasting food, we are also wasting precious water supplies. Food production included more than 70% of global freshwater emptying and an increase in production and consumption is likely to result in the use of more water. Consumption of water use is the focus that is addressed by the water footprint approach. Water consumption refers to water removed from available supplies (i.e., Oceans, lakes, reservoirs, etc.), without returning to the water source (World Resource Institute, 2015).

Wasting fertile land & Soil degradation

According to FAO, the total amount of food wastage occupied almost 1.4 billion hectares. Globally, equal to 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land area each year. Based on the research, the world is wasting 39 percent of fertile land. Intensive farming practices, without allowing fields to lie fallow and replenish, contribute to soil degradation and excessive pressure on soil resources (Vittuari et al., 2017). Land development for agricultural purposes is also a cause of deforestation, eliminating wildlife habitats and absorbing greenhouse gas emissions. (FAO, 2013). Food waste that decays in a landfill, with no oxygen present, emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Economic Impact

Economically, food waste does not do good for the business since it brings up many subsequent costs. Food waste represents high waste management cost, and money wasted, given the considerable amount of edible food thrown away every year. Such waste management costs include the maintenance of landfills as well as transport cost, and operation costs. The FAO estimates that food worth about $940 billion is lost or wasted each year globally throughout the entire food supply chain. Food waste in households and restaurants costs an average of $1,600 per year for a family in the United States, and £700 (about $1,170) per year for the average household with children in the United Kingdom (Gardiner, 2014). About $32 billion worth of food is thrown away in China every year. There are four main financial costs created when foodstuffs get discarded in the kitchen: Raw material costs, labour costs used during food production, energy costs used for the cooking as well as the serving phase, and food waste disposal expenses. (Baldwin & Shakman, 2012, 62)

Social Impact

Food waste not only impacts on the environment and economic but also create a negative impact on society. Many people need enough food to feed themselves to be alive while we are wasting food. According to 2017 UN World Hunger Report, 870 million people worldwide suffered from hunger and starved, especially children. The FAO stated that the food that is wasted currently in Latin America could feed 300 million people (2017). When it comes to leftovers and surplus food, it is always easier to throw them away. Hotel in Singapore generates at least 500kg food waste every 24 hours. All that food that is wasted by the hotel could feed 365 Singaporeans (The Straits Times ,2017).

The food wastage harms the environment, the economy, and society in various ways. There is a necessity to practice sustainable ways to manage food wastage in the hospitality industry mainly and all over the world in general.

Cite this page

The Environmental Impact of Food Waste. (2020, Sep 22). Retrieved from

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