Up to half of all the food produced in the world ends up going to waste, according to a new report published today.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) says poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer waste, results in 30–50% (1.2–2 billion tonnes) - of all food produced never reaching a human stomach. Added to this are the large amounts of land, energy, fertilisers and water that have been lost in the production of the food.
The study blames retail and customer behaviour for a lot of the waste in developed countries. It highlights how major supermarkets, in meeting consumer expectations, will often reject entire crops of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables at the farm because they do not meet exacting marketing standards for their physical characteristics, such as size and appearance. For example, up to 30% of the UK’s vegetable crop is never harvested as a result of such practices. Globally, retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste annually in this way.
Sales promotions in supermarkets are also responsible for a large amount for waste. According to the report, these encourage customers to purchase excessive quantities which, in the case of perishable foodstuffs, inevitably gets thrown out. Between 30% and 50% of what has been bought in developed countries is thrown away by the purchaser.
Recommendations put forward by the IMechE include government policies that changes consumer expectations and discourage retailers from wasteful practices that lead to the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic characteristics, and losses in the home due to excessive purchasing by consumers.
The United Nations’ predicts that by 2075 there will be an extra three billion mouths to feed putting huge pressure on the world’s resources.
Read the full report or listen to the webinar on how businesses are tackling the evolving urban waste challenge.