Food waste reduction initiatives can help the economy

A new report from the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate provides examples of how reducing food waste is good for the economy, good for food security and good for the climate. In the new report, Strategies to achieve economic and environmental gains by reducing food waste, the authors estimate the value of global consumer food waste at more than US$400 billion per year. Among the recommendations:

  • Governments should consider supporting the establishment of independent organisations which can facilitate and evaluate efforts to reduce consumer food waste and food waste in grocery and hospitality supply chains. Collaboratives working in countries such as the UK, Norway and Japan are delivering significant reductions in food waste, saving many billions of dollars per year.
  • In developing countries, governments and international organisations should invest in infrastructure and help coordinate food production, storage and distribution activities to reduce food waste; and in particular encourage the roll out of sustainable and effective cold and frozen supply chains.
  • Emerging cities with fast growing middle class populations can reduce waste management costs, and help residents save money, by setting up and supporting consumer food waste prevention campaigns.
  • Private companies can increase competitiveness and resilience through food waste prevention, but the most significant gains can only be made through whole-chain collaboration. Companies should support the development of, and participate in sector agreements to enable such collaboration.
  • Governments and companies should support the development of the World Resources Institute led ‘Food Loss and Waste Protocol’ and adopt this when finalised, to establish more robust food waste estimates.
  • Governments and companies should make use of robust measurement techniques, such as those recommended by the protocol, to evaluate the impact of new national, regional and local interventions aimed at reducing food waste – expanding the evidence base to encourage and inform future action on food waste prevention.
  • Organisations such as UNEP and FAO should consider, with others, developing a mechanism for hosting, sharing and analysing the increasing number of studies reporting food waste levels, drivers and evaluating interventions, to increase the pace and geographic spread of change.

Among the many key points in the report:

  • The value of the global food and agriculture sector is around US$8 trillion, or 10% of global GDP, and it provides employment to over a billion people, or a third of the world’s workforce.
  • The production and consumption of food demands huge resources, in terms of raw materials and the land required to produce these, and the energy, capital, labour required for growing, manufacturing, packaging, storing, transporting and cooking around 4 billion tonnes of food for 7 billion people.
  • Roughly one-third of all food produced in the world is thought to end up as waste based on weight, although some estimates put the figure as high as 50%, or up to 2 billion tonnes a year. This translates in to about one-quarter of all food based on calories. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the global carbon footprint of food waste, excluding land use change, was 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2e in 2007, equivalent to approximately 7% of global GHG emissions.
  • By 2030, a 20-50% reduction in consumer food waste could save an estimated US$120-300 billion per year.
  • Reducing food waste has clear benefits for climate change mitigation. An estimated 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, or 3.3 billion tonnes per year, are due to food waste. By 2030 GHGs could be lowered by at least 0.2 and possibly as much as 1 billion tonnes per year through food waste reductions.
  • Actions to reduce food waste are often associated with low or no costs, and the benefits are potentially very large indeed.




The 53 page report is available at


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