UN reveals global campaign to reduce food waste

22 Jan 2013

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are today launching a new global programme targeted at consumers, governments and the food industry to help reduce the 1.3bn tonnes of food that’s wasted around the world annually.

The campaign – Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint – will be officially launched at an event in Geneva, Switzerland, this afternoon. Its goal will be to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production and consumption.

The campaign also has an online information portal to offer news and resources to help tackle the problem of food waste.

Other partners involved in the campaign include the UK-based WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) and the Feeding the 5,000 initiative.

The campaign is set to specifically target food wasted by consumers, retailers and the hospitality industry.

According to data from the FAO, about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1trn, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems.

It says food loss mostly happens during the production stages, while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.

“In a world of 7bn people, set to grow to 9bn by 2050, wasting food makes no sense – economically, environmentally and ethically,” said UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.

“Aside from the cost implications, all the land, water, fertilisers and labour needed to grow that food is wasted, not to mention the generation of greenhouse gas emissions produced by food decomposing on landfill and the transport of food that is ultimately thrown away,” he added.

The FAO’s director-general José Graziano da Silva said that in industrialised regions, almost half of food that’s wasted each year – around 300m tonnes – happens because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit to be eaten.

He said this amount of food wastage is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be enough to feed the estimated 870m people who are hungry around the world.

“If we can help food producers to reduce losses through better harvesting, processing, storage, transport and marketing methods, and combine this with profound and lasting changes in the way people consume food, then we can have a healthier and hunger-free world,” Graziano da Silva said.

The online portal supporting the campaign will have tips and advice for consumers and retailers on ways to reduce food waste. The website will also offer advice for NGOs to share ideas on food waste campaigning.

Food image via Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic