Food Waste: is there a way out?

We can get indignant every time another report reminds us that 1% of the world’s population owns as much wealth as the remaining 99%. But there is at least one area in which many of us belong to a privileged minority: food waste.

Today is Food Waste Prevention Day in Italy. FAO figures continue to paint a pitiless picture of the current situation: Western consumers throw away around 222 million tons of food every year, almost as much as the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).

While in developing countries, 40% of losses take place at the start of the supply chain, during harvesting and processing, in industrialized countries an even larger percentage is lost between distribution and final consumption. This second category of waste is more problematic because it means even more labor, energy and resources have been invested in the food, so the environmental and economic impact of their squandering is even higher.

According to a new FAO study, “Towards integrating production and consumption to reduce consumer food waste in developed countries”, what we are seeing is a symptomatic problem, the consequence of a food production model in which accumulation, consumerism, competition and undercutting are encouraged at every level. Is there a way out? Yes, but not within this mechanism based on the overexploitation of resources by producers and of desires by consumers.

The UN has placed the halving of waste among its sustainable development goals (SDGs) for 2030. Even a reduction of current waste by a quarter would be enough to provide food for the world’s 870 million hungry people.

But at a European level, during negotiations on the Waste Framework Directive, the member states did not feel it necessary to include obligatory objectives for the reduction of food waste, even though they are committed to helping reach the SDGs.

Political decision-makers might be struggling to make real commitments in the war against waste, but each of us can contribute to fighting the flaws in the current food system on a daily basis: with small, frequent shops, by drawing up detailed lists of what we actually need and by giving our children a proper food education.

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