Last month, CNN tweeted about how much food is wasted worldwide annually. In my opinion, the estimated numbers are eye-opening! Over $400 Billion worldwide are wasted in food annually. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO) explicitly states that these are just preliminary numbers and that food waste can actually be closer to $750 Billion Dollars annually, the equivalent of about 1.3 Billion tons per year.
In developing and emerging countries, food loss occurs with more frequency at the production stage and in the food supply chain compared to developed nations. In developed nations food suitable for consumption is disposed of at a higher frequency compared to developing nations. A large part can be attributed to canned and preserved goods that have expired packaging dates, but in fact have longer shelf lives than manufacturer’s suggested shelf lives.
Figures coming out of the FAO also discuss the carbon footprint of wasting food, estimated to be some 250 cubic kilometers (km3) of water annually and 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere per year (1 cubic kilometer is 1 000 000 000 cubic meters and also equivalent to 1 000 000 000 000 liters of water being wasted per year). Using an estimation from current unit prices of energy for 2015, 13 cents per kilowatt, food waste consumes roughly 500 000 GW each year.
Another subtle implication about food waste is that based on the location it is disposed of, the probability of it ending up in a conventional landfill is high. Organic compounds release methane and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) as they decompose, adding to the global warming/climate change conundrum. Methane emissions from landfills represent one of the largest sources of GHG emissions.