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UPSC Sansad TV: Food Waste Index Report 2024





It is a strange irony that on one hand the world is a victim of starvation and on the other hand crores of tonnes of food grains are wasted. You will be surprised to see the figures of food wastage and starvation released by the United Nations. It has been said in this report that more food grains are wasted every day than the number of people in the world who go to sleep hungry every day. Hotel and restaurant owners play the biggest role in this. In fact, the United Nations report states that in the year 2022, 19 percent of the total grain production globally, i.e. about 1.05 billion tonnes of grains, was wasted. The UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index report monitors countries’ progress in halving food waste by 2030.

Behaviour and attitude change needed to prevent food wastage

  • The astonishing statistics of food waste attributed to households and their irresponsible consumption patterns means that change needs to begin in our own homes.
  • Calculated purchasing when buying groceries, minimising single-use packaging wherever possible, ordering consciously from restaurants, and reconsidering extravagant buffet spreads at weddings can go a long way.
  • At the community level, one can identify and get involved with organisations such as Coimbatore-based No Food Waste which aim to redistribute excess food to feed the needy and hungry.
  • A strong sense of judiciousness in how we consume our food is the next logical step. We must attempt to change our “food abundance” mindset to a “food scarcity” one, working our way towards a zero-waste end goal.

Impact of food loss and waste:

  • Reducing food losses and waste is essential in a worldwhere the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise since 2014, and tons and tons of edible food are lost and/or wasted every day.
  • When food is loss or wasted, all the resources that were used to produce this food -, including water, land, energy, labour and capital – go to waste. In addition, the disposal of food loss and waste in landfills, leads to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.
  • Further, several toxins and/or a black liquid known as leachate, oozes from the waste, which is absorbed by the soil/ground, leading to the contamination of ground water. These overflowing landfills have today become the root cause of blocked drains, soil and water pollution.
  • As well as reducing pollution emitted by wasted food, lots of energy and resources are also conserved in the process. From growing crops, manufacturing, transportation, and selling of food — all of these processes consume energy and resources.

Importance of reducing food loss and waste:

  • When reductions in food loss occur close to the farm, they are most effective in addressing food insecurity and in alleviating stress on land and water.
  • When reductions in food waste occur downstream in the supply chain and at the consumer level they are key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The largest improvements in food security are likely to occur by reducing food losses in the early stages of the supply chain, especially on-farm and at harvest in countries with high levels of food insecurity.
  • Nutrient loss due to quantitative and qualitative food loss and waste may represent a missed opportunity to reduce malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers carbon footprint.
  • Conserves energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling food (not to mention hauling the food waste and then putting it in the landfill).

Way forward:

  • Make the children aware of the importance of food and the impact of food waste on environment
  • Make it a habit to give the uneaten food left from your household parties to donate to charities through NGOs in your area.
  • Follow essential food safety techniques to avoid food waste
  • Set up of food waste audit will help realize how and why food has been wasted.
  • Maintain a correct temperature and good storage facility for perishables items
  • Regular checking of temperatures, seals on fridges and freezers and rotation of stock to keep them fresh will bring down spoilage.
  • In France, it is mandatory for supermarkets to donate unsold food items to charity or farmers to convert them into fertilizers
  • Canada recovers unused food items from manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, etc. and delivers these food ingredients to be used to cook over 22,000 meals every day
  • Sweden implemented a recycling revolution, wherein less than 1% of household waste ends up in landfills and of the 4.4 million tons of household waste produced every year, 2.2 million is converted into energy.