Sun | Sep 19, 2021

17% of food production globally wasted, UN report estimates

Published:Friday | March 5, 2021 | 9:36 AM
In this Wednesday, January 15, 2020 file photo, students discard food at the end of their lunch period as part of a lunch waste composting programme at an elementary school in Connecticut. A United Nations report released on Thursday, March 4, 2021, estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Instead of finishing your leftovers, you let them go bad and buy takeout.

It’s a familiar routine for many — and indicative of habits that contribute to a global food waste problem that a new United Nations report says needs to be better measured so that it can be effectively addressed.

The UN report estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted.

That amounts to 931 million metric tonnes of food.

The waste is far more than previous reports had indicated, though direct comparisons are difficult because of differing methodologies and the lack of strong data from many countries.

“Improved measurement can lead to improved management,” said Brian Roe, a food waste researcher at Ohio State University who was not involved in the report.

Most of the waste — or 61% — happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%, the UN found.

The UN is pushing to reduce food waste globally, and researchers are also working on an assessment of waste that includes the food lost before reaching consumers.

The authors note the report seeks to offer a clearer snapshot of the scale of a problem that has been difficult to assess, in hopes of spurring governments to invest in better tracking.

“Many countries haven’t yet quantified their food waste, so they don’t understand the scale of the problem,” said Clementine O’Connor, of the UN Environment Programme and co-author of the report.

Food waste has become a growing concern because of the environmental toll of production, including the land required to raise crops and animals and the greenhouse gas emissions produced along the way.

Experts say improved waste tracking is key to finding ways to ease the problem, such as programs to divert inedible scraps to use as animal feed or fertiliser.

The report found food waste in homes isn’t limited to higher-income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

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