50% of All Food Produced Is Wasted

cover© Institute of Mechanical Engineers

So many people. So little land and water. That's why we write about peak food and peak fertilizer and peak water. People have been saying for years that we are running out of food. Yet TreeHugger has been saying for years that 40% of the world's food is wasted, in the fields, in storage and transport, in the preparation and selling of it, on our plates and in our fridges. Now a new report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers tells us, as Brad Plumer put it, that "Between 30 and 50 percent of all the food that’s produced on the planet is lost and wasted without ever reaching human stomachs."

One could also point out that even more is wasted if you consider that much more of it hits reaches human stomachs than is actually needed, or how much is food is used to fatten cattle or farmed fish, but that just skews it higher. The real point is that we don't have a food production crisis, we have a storage and transportation crisis and a consumption crisis. The executive summary notes:

The potential to provide 60–100% more food by simply eliminating losses, while simultaneously freeing up land, energy and water resources for other uses, is an opportunity that should not be ignored.

But it isn't easy, and it isn't just about agriculture, but (surprise!) engineering:

Controlling and reducing the level of wastage is frequently beyond the capability of the individual farmer, distributor or consumer, since it depends on market philosophies, security of energy supply, quality of roads and the presence of transport hubs. These are all related more to societal, political and economic norms, as well as better-engineered infrastructure, rather than to agriculture. In most cases the sustainable solutions needed to reduce waste are well known. The challenge is transferring this know-how to where it is needed, and creating the political and social environment which encourages both transfer and adoption of these ideas to take place.

We have tilled this terrain before on TreeHugger:

food waste graph image

The Impact of Food Waste on Climate Change (And Just About Everything Else)

It is estimated that 40% of the food produced in America is wasted; it amounts to 1400 calories per person every day. According to the EPA, 31 million tons is thrown into landfills. Much of that produces methane as it rots; the gas is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The UK website Next Generation Food estimates that each tonne of food waste is equivalent to 4.2 tonnes of CO2. They conclude that if we simply stopped wasting food, it would be the equivalent of taking a quarter of all the cars in America off the road. More in TreeHugger

dumpster food photo

Study Finds Half of All Food Produced Worldwide is Wasted

Anybody who has ever eaten at a buffet or gone to a supermarket knows how much food we waste on a regular basis. You needn't be a devoted freegan to appreciate just how much of the food we throw away is still in near-pristine condition. As if wasting all that food weren't bad enough, one can only imagine the vast quantities water that get frittered away worldwide during production (too much). More in TreeHugger

More than £12 Billion in Food Waste Goes in the Garbage Every Year in U.K.

5.3 million tonnes of food and drink that could have been consumed goes in the trash every year in the U.K., according to a new report. Household Food ad Waste in the UK [pdf] details the "food waste mountain" effectively growing in landfills from the wasted food and drink. More in TreeHugger

2% US Energy Consumption is Lost Through Food Waste

We know Americans are guilty of wasting an inexcusable amount of food every year. In fact, estimates say we waste as much as 40% of our food supply; New York City residents alone waste 270,000 pounds of food every single day. But how much energy is wasted along with that food? In a new study, researchers took a closer look and estimate that with the energy that goes into the agricultural production, transportation, processing, food sales, storage and preparation for the food we waste equates to about 2% of annual energy consumption in the US. More in TreeHugger

food crisis infographic photo

The Two Sides of the Food Crisis: Want & Waste (Infographic)

Whenever we talk about the Global food crisis, a lot of time is spent on how we can possibly grow enough food to feed a growing population. But there is another side too—how can we get the food we do grow to mouths that will actually eat it? The shocking truth is that while many go hungry from not having enough food, wealthy nations waste almost half of theirs. Here's an infographic that explores this scandal in more detail. More in TreeHugger

wasted food scraps photo

America Wastes 40% of It's Food Supply Every Year

America, a new study suggests, wastes 40% of its food supply annually. Published in the Public Library of Science, the research indicates a dramatic increase over the last decades, up from 28% in 1974.... the PLoS study's 40% is an estimate of waste in the entire food system. This means that all the waste that occurs between the field and processing plant, that plant and the store, the store and our homes, and our refrigerators and our mouths is included. More in TreeHugger

50% of All Food Produced Is Wasted
We don't have a food production crisis, we have a storage and transportation crisis and a consumption crisis.

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