home Urban policies & Governance, Waste Management The food waste problem: why the world should take notice

The food waste problem: why the world should take notice

Food waste is considered a global concern. On a global scale, the overwhelming amount of food that went squandered is just unacceptable.

It is estimated that around 1.3 billion metric tons or a third of the global food production ends up in garbage bins and landfills.

The vast amount of food that is being wasted is, to put it bluntly, a shame to everybody. It is an insult to the dignity of labour associated in the production of food and an utter disrespect to the environment.

It is a shock to moral conscience to be putting away edible food in huge garbage bins down to the landfills while millions of people in poor communities are starving. To borrow the words of Pope Francis, the world’s “culture of waste” is “like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.”

Why food waste deserves attention

Solving the issue of food waste can synergistically complement the effort of governments along the triple bottom line of sustainability: economic progress, social equity and environmental viability.

Economically, recovering even a quarter of the world’s food waste can literally put an end to world hunger. The 2017 Food Security and Nutrition in the World revealed that around 815 million people do not have enough to eat.

Just imagine if the food products that typically end up in landfills are instead donated to food banks of developing countries—it would uplift the conditions of around 98% of the world’s undernourished people in this part of the world.

Socially, recovering food waste from the food supply chain could mean more food in the table and better lives for the poor. Pushing private business entities to do their part in the food waste problem can help drive the public sector’s anti-poverty campaign.

Instead of putting more money into provide food for the urban poor, governments can instead channel this money to equally pressing concerns such as education, shelter and other basic social services. Hence, putting less fiscal pressure to the state welfare system and less impact to national economies.

It is claimed that food waste is among the largest contributors to the methane emission that causes global world warming. If it were a country, it would rank behind the United States and China. The next time you are tempted to throw away an apple in the garbage bin next to you, think of tremendous amount of water, energy and other resources used to produce that apple and the amount of labor involved from production to distribution before it reaches your table.

Call for global action

Inasmuch as the issue is global in character, it likewise needs global effort; although actions should be implemented in the local level as its impact is felt the most in the local level.

As Guillaume Garot, French National Assembly member and former French Minister in Agrofood, correctly puts it: “the fight against food waste on a global scale is a key priority of civilization and an imperative path we must take if we want to ameliorate the food challenge.”

In the oft-cited domain of governance, there is a need to mobilize both private and public sector to urge the whole of the food chain to galvanize a concerted, integrated and multi-stakeholders’ effort to fight global food waste. At the personal level, each has a moral obligation to preserve food as a valuable resource and put them to beneficial use.

In a way, people’s consumerist behavior can be tagged as a guilty culprit. Accordingly, 99% of what people purchased ends up being thrown away in trash cans. With that said, there is an imperative need to change public mindsets and a shift to a wholesome attitude towards food.

It is a welcome development that some countries have taken action to combat global food waste. France and the United Kingdom lead the world in their campaign against food waste. But the former stepped a bit bolder in its efforts.

France is considered the first country in the world that prohibits supermarkets from throwing away unsold food but instead donate them in food banks and charities through legislation.

If France was able to muster the needed political will and moral reserve to act on food waste, will other countries follow suit?

That remains to be seen.


Sources: Business Insider, Reuters, The Guardian

Photo: brickeagle.com

Leave a Reply