Food Waste Global Issue That Affects Both Developed and Developing Countries

Anurag Sharma
Anurag Sharma

Updated · Oct 18, 2023

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According to Food Waste Statistics, Food waste is a significant global issue that affects both developed and developing countries. It refers to the loss or disposal of edible food along the entire food supply chain, from production and processing to distribution, retail, and consumption.

Food waste occurs when food that is safe and suitable for human consumption is discarded, whether due to spoilage, overproduction, or consumer behavior.

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  • Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted globally each year.
  • Approximately 690 million people suffer from chronic hunger worldwide, while an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted annually.
  • Waste accounts for about one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide.
  • The economic cost of global waste is estimated to be around $1 trillion annually.
  • In developing countries, a significant portion of waste occurs during production and post-harvest handling, while in developed countries, most waste happens at the consumer level.
  • Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with approximately 8% of global emissions attributed to wasted food.
  • Industrialized countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the total net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • Waste exacerbates global water scarcity, with about 24% of all water used for agriculture ultimately wasted due to discarded food.
  • The United States wastes approximately 30-40% of its food supply, amounting to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food annually.

Global Food Waste Overview

  • Approximately 1.3 billion metric tons of food is wasted globally each year.
  • This amount is equivalent to about one-third of all food produced for human consumption.
  • High-income regions, such as North America and Europe, tend to have higher levels of waste per capita compared to low-income regions.
  • Industrialized countries waste about 222 million tons of food annually, which is nearly as much as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
  • Waste contributes to approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter after the United States and China.
  • Wasted food occupies around 1.4 billion hectares of land, which accounts for about 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.
  • The water footprint of waste is approximately 250 km³ per year, equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, the largest river in Europe.
  • The household sector accounts for approximately 569 million tonnes of waste globally.
  • The retail sector contributes around 244 million tonnes of waste to the global total.
  • Within the food service Market, approximately 118 million tonnes of food are wasted worldwide.
food waste

Waste in the Household Sector

  • The household sector accounts for about 53% of total global waste.
  • In high-income countries, households waste approximately 95-115 kg of food per capita per year.
  • Low and middle-income countries experience per capita household waste ranging from 6-11 kg annually.
  • Roughly 40% of waste by households is fruits and vegetables.
  • Bread and cereals contribute to around 20% of household waste.
  • Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, account for approximately 15% of household waste.
  • Meat and fish waste make up roughly 8-10% of household waste.
  • Prepared and leftover meals contribute to about 8% of waste in households.
  • In high-income countries, consumers discard around 10-15% of food purchases.
  • Lack of awareness and improper meal planning are major contributors to household waste.

Retail Sector Waste

  • Approximately 2% of total global food production is wasted in the retail sector.
  • Retail waste accounts for an estimated 244 million units of food globally.
  • In the United States, the retail sector is responsible for discarding around 43 billion pounds (19.5 million metric tons) of food annually.
  • Supermarkets and grocery stores in the United Kingdom generate approximately 200,000 tons of waste each year.
  • In Australia, the retail sector wastes an estimated 7.3 million tons of food annually.
  • Roughly 40% of waste in the European Union occurs in the retail and wholesale sectors.
  • A survey conducted in Canada found that retailers contribute to around 10% of the country’s total waste.
  • In South Africa, retailers discard approximately 2.8 million tons of food each year.
  • Retail waste in India is estimated to be around 5-16 million tons annually.
  • The retail sector in China generates about 35 million tons of waste per year.

Food Waste in the Food Service Sector

  • Food Service sector contributes to approximately 10% of global waste.
  • Around 5% of total global food production is wasted in the Food Service sector.
  • Restaurants and catering establishments account for an estimated 14% of their total expenses.
  • In the United States, the Food Service sector generates over 11 million tons of waste annually.
  • Restaurants and food service providers waste an average of 4-10% of the food they purchase.
  • Buffet-style operations have a higher waste generation rate compared to other types of food service establishments.
  • Waste in the Food Service sector is primarily driven by overproduction, spoilage, and plate waste.
  • Roughly 40-50% of fruits and vegetables are wasted in the Food Service sector.
  • In Europe, the Food Service sector accounts for 14% of total waste generated across the supply chain.
  • Implementing waste reduction strategies in the Food Service sector could save businesses up to $1.6 billion annually in the United States.

Economic Implications

  • The global economic cost of waste is estimated to be around $1 trillion annually.
  • In high-income countries, the annual economic cost of waste is approximately $680 billion, while in low- and middle-income countries, it amounts to about $310 billion.
  • Food waste throughout the supply chain leads to significant financial losses for farmers, producers, and retailers, with losses ranging from 15% to 30% of total production value.
  • The hospitality sector incurs substantial economic losses due to waste, with restaurants and food service establishments experiencing profit losses of up to 4% due to wasted food.
  • Efficient management of waste can generate economic benefits. For every $1 invested in waste reduction initiatives, there is an average return of $14 in cost savings.
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Anurag Sharma

Anurag Sharma

He has been helping in business of varied scales, with key strategic decisions. He is a specialist in healthcare, medical devices, and life-science, and has accurately predicted the trends in the market. Anurag is a fervent traveller, and is passionate in exploring untouched places and locations. In his free time, he loves to introspect and plan ahead.