New Report: Strategy to Reduce Food Waste Globally

Food waste is something of a hot-button topic lately, and rightly so. According to the Ontario Waste Management Association, about $12 billion dollars of food per year is wasted in Ontario. A commonly seen figure is that about a third of food produced ends up being wasted – a shockingly high amount when you think about all the energy and resources that go into growing food in the first place.

In Ontario, only about 25% of organic waste (which is mostly food waste) ends up being

Only 25% of organic waste is diverted to compost in Ontario.

diverted for composting. A lot of food waste happens in individual homes, which makes the problem a difficult one for policy makers to tackle, but like many complex problems this one can benefit from both top down and bottom up approaches. In Ottawa, we’re starting to see more and more “imperfect” produce available to purchase in grocery stores (which would be even better if it didn’t come packaged in single-use plastic bags!), and efforts to increase organic waste diversion by allowing plastic bags in green bins (also a controversial decision because of concerns about plastic waste). Globally, we’re seeing adoption of initiatives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include improving access to food and reducing food waste (goal 12.3).

Apparently you could always put milk cartons in the green bin in Ottawa? Who knew.

The new report Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Agenda, released August FoodLossCover29th at the World Food Summit in Coppenhagen by the World Resources Institute, definitely takes a global approach. By taking a “target-measure-act” approach and encouraging adoption of UN SDG 12.3 by countries, and companies, world-wide, identifying some top “to-do” items for each type of actor in the food supply chain, and creating a list of suggestions that target waste hot spots and reduce waste across the supply chain, the report takes an optimistic and practical approach to tackling the problem of food waste.

It also points out that tackling this problem creates a “triple win” – saving money for governments, businesses and individuals while also reducing food shortages and taking action on climate change. It certainly sounds like a great idea, and is potentially less political than other big issues like transitioning away from fossil fuels (and therefore maybe easier to build political will?).

The whole report, and an excellent overview article, are available from the World Resource Institute here. Although it is a high-level document, it does include grassroots level suggestions – “to do” items for the consumer portion of the food chain. Much of this is common sense, but it can be motivation for individuals to action take these actions if they can see how they fit into a larger picture.

Excerpt from a table in the Food Loss and Waste report (pg 12) with examples of actions consumers can take to mitigate food waste.

What do you think? What actions do you already take to reduce food waste? What do you find the hardest? Let us know in the comments!

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