The statistics collected in limited studies of food waste make your jaw drop: estimates indicate that between a third and half of all food grown goes to waste. And this doesn't even count the number of excess calories going to waist!
Redistribution of food to feed the hungry remains a complicated issue, but the environmental impact that could be directly addressed by reducing food waste ranges from water conservation to reduction of the 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases related to the wasted food.
Sporadic studies have launched efforts to fight this food waste, but lack of a consistent, credible measurement process makes tracking progress and sharing success difficult. A Food Loss and Waste Protocol launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) by the World Resources Institute (WRI) promises to fill the gap.
The head of the UN Environment Program (UNEP) Responsible Consumption Unit moderated input on the measurement protocol from a team that included the President of WRI alongside the President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Sustainable Food Systems arm of the British Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and the CEO of Tesco.
We sat down with Peter Skelton of WRAP, a UK-based organization with experience measuring wastes in the food chain, to ask what he thinks about the initiative. Looking first at the obstacles to getting this measurement protocol off the ground, Peter reflected that the parties involved come at the issues with different interests and a different scope, which will make finding a single, harmonized protocol difficult. The model for their work in the greenhouse gas protocol.
WRAP has measured household food wastes, wastes in hospitals and in the supply chain. But the trickiest sector, according to Peter, remains the agricultural waste...that is, food that is grown but never makes it to a distributor or retailer.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Peter Skelton describes the evolution of the food waste issue:
"In 2006, we were a lone voice; now, it is becoming a key priority."
This article is part of a series on how public private partnerships featured at the Global Green Growth Forum (3 GF) lead us toward real and tangible solutions to sustainability problems the world faces.
3GF proceedings were cartooned by: