But the big one is that the further along the chain the loss is, the greater the energy and other embedded costs are that are lost, or wasted. Westernised societies thus do not do well in this regard.
We all need to lower our food wastage and losses - this is another timely reminder. It is not a new issue - see the old poster from WW1.!!
|Not a new issue - but a bigger one!|
Who wastes what?
According to the FAO, 54% of the world's food waste occurs 'upstream' - during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while 46% happens 'downstream,' at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.
The report also found that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences - as the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs.
Meanwhile fruit waste was said to contribute significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe - mainly as a result of extremely high wastage levels.
Similarly, large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised Asia, Europe, and South and South East Asia was shown to translate into a large carbon footprint for that sector.
Causes and solutions
A combination of consumer behaviour and lack of communication in the supply chain were found to underlie the higher levels of food waste in affluent societies.
To tackle the problem, FAO has launched a 'tool-kit' that contains recommendations on how food loss and waste can be reduced at every stage of the food chain and details three general levels where action is needed:
High priority should be given to reducing food wastage in the first place. Beyond improving losses of crops on farms due to poor practices, doing more to better balance production with demand would mean not using natural resources to produce unneeded food in the first place.
In the event of a food surplus, reuse within the human food chain - finding secondary markets or donating extra food to feed vulnerable members of society - represents the best option. If the food is not fit for human consumption, the next best option is to divert it for livestock feed, conserving resources that would otherwise be used to produce commercial feedstuff.
Where reuse is not possible, recycling and recovery should be pursued: by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, composting, and incineration with energy recovery allow energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste were all said to represent a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills.
“All of us - farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers - must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can't,” urged FAO director general, José Graziano da Silva.
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