Food Waste - who's to blame?

| 27th January 2017
In the U.S. consumers generate a whopping $144 billion worth of discarded food a year, in the UK 10 million tonnes of food is wasted each year
Consumers could be doing far more to help combat global food wastage with relatively little effort according to a new study showing that every year, a third of all food produced ends up being binned. LAURA BRIGGS reports
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims that global hunger could be alleviated if just 25 percent of the food we waste each year was saved instead

As consumers we have a habit of buying too much food, often more than we can consume within specified use-by dates. This leads to mountains of food being ditched in the bin - adding to waste and impacting on resources such as energy, water and manpower, not to mention the impact on global warming.

Around 795 million people go hungry on any given day around the world, yet if we all did more to alleviate food waste we could get closer to dealing with world hunger. In one year a third of all food produced globally is binned; that's 1.3 billion tons in weight, worth more than $1 trillion.

A new study conducted by SaveOnEnergy has revealed that the average American wastes enough food in a year to power a lightbulb for two weeks yet according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) global hunger could be alleviated if just 25 percent of food wasted each year was saved instead.

Rachel Wallach, a spokesperson for the Creative Team at, which produced this report, says: "The majority of food waste in the U.S. comes from homes. Consumers generate a whopping $144 billion worth of discarded food, so taking steps to reduce waste can start at home. Composting, a common method of recycling organic material, can convert food waste into humus. This can then be used to nourish growth in gardens and crops. Consumers can also plan meals in advance to only buy necessary groceries and rearrange the fridge so the most perishable items are in front and in reach!

"Recycling all materials is important for the environment and the economy, but food waste is often overlooked. Food loss along the production line is also a key  contributor to waste but most food wastage tends to occur at the consumer level. Consumers stock up their refrigerators with more food than they can eat before recommended "best-by" dates. As a result, a large portion of uneaten food is thrown out and replaced by more food-- which may later go uneaten."

In the UK 10 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, with 50% of that coming from our own homes according to the website

The UK Government is working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and businesses on voluntary agreements to reduce food and packaging waste but more could be done to bring in a recognised framework to reduce food waste from homes and businesses.

The main culprits for ending up in the garbage pile are dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables, however these foods can all be composted so easily, putting nutrients back into the soil. It could also be turned into biogas as a fuel, or used as animal feed.

Currently in America just nine of the top 25 most populated cities have some form of food waste policy. A Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law was recently passed in California which requires all businesses to recycle their organic waste, with the Californian Government initiative CalRecycle including online resources that help consumers manage food waste. Workshops have also been taking place in support of a newly proposed Food Waste Prevention Grant Program.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims that global hunger could be alleviated if just 25 percent of the food we waste each year was saved instead

Austin, Texas is also leading the war on waste as voters unanimously called for a city ordinance that requires all restaurants to sort their compostable waste.

Many businesses in New York City have taken part in a Zero Waste Challenge. For this initiative restaurants composted organic waste, trained chefs to improve meal planning, reduced the amount of food produced after peak periods, and donated surplus food to an NGO that provides meals to the city's homeless shelters. An incredible 37,000 tonnes of waste was diverted thanks to the 31 companies that took part in the challenge, more than 24,5000 tonnes of organic material was composted and 322 tonnes of food was donated.

A list of organisations working to fight food waste in the US can be found here.

In developed countries the main contributor to food waste is consumers who make up 43 % of the problem. This cycle of buying too much and then throwing food away could waste as much as 74 billion pounds of food a year.

All the way along the supply chain food is being thrown with less than 10% of food waste generated by consumer-facing businesses and consumers is recycled annually - that's around 52 million tonnes.

Just small changes can make a huge impact to the level of food waste created.

In Europe better policies are needed according to a recent report by the European Court of Auditors.

In the UK, Wrap offers guidance on lessening food waste and America has the Food Waste Alliance.

Read's full report on food waste in America here.

For advice on how we as consumers can minimize the amount of food waste we produce, visit

This Author

Laura Briggs is the Ecologist UK-based news reporter. You can follow her here @WordsbyBriggs



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