Global food waste: 17% of food ends up in the garbage

Not only rich countries are wasting: in 2019, 931 million tons of food sold to families, retailers, restaurants and other catering services were thrown away

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© Ripley Munns on Unsplash

Food waste is a global problem, not just the developed world. According to the new Food Waste Index Report 2021 of the United Nations environment program (Unep) and the British NGO WRAP, “About 931 million tons of food, or 17% of the total food available to consumers in 2019, ended up in waste bins from households, retailers, restaurants and other food services ”, as much as 23 million fully loaded 40-ton trucks, which, lined up, would circle the Earth 7 times.

The Unep – WRAP report examines the food waste that occurs in retail outlets, restaurants and homes, by counting both food and inedible parts such as bones and shells. The report represents the most comprehensive collection, analysis and modeling of data on food waste to date and offers governments a methodology for measuring food waste. 152 data contributing to food waste were identified in 54 countries.

The report notes that “In almost all countries that have measured it, food waste has been considerable, regardless of income level” and shows that most of this waste comes from households, who discard 11% of total food. available at the consumption stage of the supply chain. Catering services and retail outlets waste 5% and 2% respectively. Globally, a single consumer wastes 121 kilograms of food every year, of which 74 kilograms in households. The report also includes regional and national per capita estimates.

Unep highlights that “Food waste has significant environmental, social and economic impacts. For example, at a time when climate action is still lagging behind, 8% -10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food not being consumed, if losses are taken into account before arriving. at the level of the consumer “.

The executive director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, recalled that “Reducing food waste would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow down the destruction of nature caused by land conversion and pollution, increase the availability of food and therefore reduce the hunger and would save money in a time of global recession. If we are to get serious about tackling climate change, the loss of nature and biodiversity, pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world must do their part to reduce food waste. This year’s United Nations Food Systems Summit will provide the opportunity to launch bold new actions to tackle food waste globally.”

Food waste and marketing: “ugly” products sell more

Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that “Food manufacturers and retailers throw away large quantities of perfectly edible products that do not meet beauty standards, contributing to the environmental problem of food waste.”

The three Canadian authors examined why consumers discard aesthetically unappealing products and tested a low-cost and easy-to-apply solution: “Emphasize the cosmetic defect of the product through ‘ugly’ labeling (for example, labeling cucumbers with defects in appearance “Ugly cucumbers” on shop displays or in advertising)”.

7 experiments, 2 of which were conducted on supermarket shelves and the others online, showed that ‘Bad’ labeling corrects biased consumer expectations about key attributes of unattractive products, in particular taste, and therefore the probability of purchase increases”.

Another result of the study is that “ugly” labeling is more effective when combined with moderate discounts and not too discounted products. Something counterintuitive to what supermarket managers believed that alternative labeling that does not exclusively highlight the cosmetic defect was more effective, such as the “imperfect products” or “product with personality” sign in the fruit department and vegetables.

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