A global initiative to encourage consumers, retailers and the hospitality industry to reduce food waste has been launched by two international bodies.
‘Think.Eat.Save.’ is a joint venture by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and follows a significant report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers which claimed that half of the world’s food is wasted.
The FAO’s figures are slightly more conservative – that one-third of food produced, worth $1tn, is lost by producers or consumers.
UNEP and the FAO, along with partners, believe consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3bn tonnes of food lost or wasted each year.
The UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said it was nonsensical “economically, environmentally and ethically” to waste food in a world with a high and growing population.
Guidance on waste
José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, said: “In industrialised regions, almost half of the total food squandered, around 300 million tonnes annually, occurs because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit for consumption.”
“This is more than the total net food production of sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world.”
The Think.Eat.Save. website - www.thinkeatsave.org - provides information on the actions consumers and those in the hospitality industry or food retail can take to reduce food waste. Examples for consumers include: planning meals, buying ‘funny’ shaped fruit, and using up food in the fridge. Recommendations for retailers and restaurants include: carrying out waste audits, limiting menu choices or offering different portion sizes, and engaging staff in cutting food waste.
Users of the website, from supermarkets or hotels to entire cities or countries, can make online pledges to measure and reduce their food waste.
The site also provides forums for food waste campaigners around the world to exchange ideas to help bring about a culture change in the way we treat food.
The campaign’s partners include national governments and successful national food waste initiatives. In the UK this includes Wrap and Feeding the 5,000, which organises free meals using food that would otherwise be binned.
According to WRAP, the average UK family could save £680 per year and the UK hospitality sector could save £724m per year by tackling food waste.
“In the UK we have shown how tackling food waste through engaging with consumers and establishing collective agreement with retailers and brands, reduces environmental pressures and aids economic growth,” said Liz Goodwin, chief executive of WRAP.
“With a rising population, even more pressure is going to be put on resources, and we are excited to be a partner in UNEP and FAO’s Think. Eat. Save. campaign, which is a great start to tackling food waste on a global scale.”
Zero food waste to landfill
Other supporters of the campaign in the UK include Wales’s environment and sustainable development minister John Griffiths; Scotland’s environment secretary Richard Lochhead; Andrew Kuyk director of sustainability from the UK Food and Drink Federation; and Paul Crewe, Sainsbury’s head of sustainability.
Both the Welsh and Scottish governments consider tackling food waste a priority and welcome the campaign. Lochhead said: “The vast amount of good food which is wasted globally shames us all.”
Crewe said: “We’re adding our support to this UNEP campaign because wasting less food is a thoroughly good thing. At Sainsbury’s, we take the issue of food waste very seriously and work to minimize it as much as possible.” Sainsbury’s have recently achieved zero food waste to landfill. Surplus food goes to charities, anaerobic digestion or animal feed. The supermarket also encourages customers to reduce food waste.
Kuyk also supports the inititative: “We know from our own work with WRAP in the UK food industry that they will be able to add real value to UNEP’s initiative to devise a global reduction programme, building on lessons learned from actions already taken.”