Food Waste: $940 Billion Losses and 8% of GHG

Champions 12.3 report one year of progress
Food Waste: $940 Billion Losses and 8% of GHG Food Waste: $940 Billion Losses and 8% of GHG
Publ. date 27 Sep 2016
It has been one year since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted globally. The past year showed us that businesses are indispensable in achieving the new global goals. With approximately $5-7 trillion needed to finance the goals on an annual basis, the private sector has a crucial role to play as the engine behind innovation and technological development and an investment source. The Champions 12.3 coalition recently published a progress report assessing the world’s progress towards achieving SDG target 12.3 on tackling food waste and losses.


The global food chain is a large producer of waste which ends up in landfills. Food losses in the production phase are especially customary in developing countries, whereas food waste near consumption is more prevailing in developed regions. In total, food loss and waste account for $940 billion in economic losses and 8% of greenhouse gas emissions annually on a global scale. To put things into perspective, food waste in restaurants and households cost $1,500 on average per year for four person family in the United States and about $1,060 for an average household with children in the United Kingdom. From an environmental perspective, if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the U.S.

Today’s progress is steady

The report shows that countries and organizations in Europe have made substantial progress in the last year. One example is the EU Platform on Food losses and Food waste launched by the European Commission aiming at collaboration among public and private stakeholders to identify food waste and loss prevention measures. Furthermore, it shares best practices and measures progress over time. Another example is the International Food Waste Coalition that introduced a program with the objective of reducing food waste in schools which is currently in its pilot phase running in the United Kingdom, Italy, and France.

One of the countries that is very active in fighting food waste is France. Back in 2014, its third largest supermarket Intermarché, already decided to start selling imperfect fruits and vegetables at its stores. The French food retailer launched a campaign called ‘Inglorious fruits & vegetables’, which celebrates the ‘ugly’ produce that is often thrown away by growers and considered unfit for consumption. In addition, last February the country adopted a legislation that requires French supermarkets to donate unsold food that is still of good quality to charities.

Much more is needed to achieve target 12.3 by 2030

Although countries and companies are progressing on target 12.3, a lot more is needed before 2030 in order to achieve the 50% reduction of total food waste. The progress report concludes with three recommendations, for both businesses and governments:

Target: So far, target setting is only done in a few regional areas and among the world’s largest food companies. But to achieve target 12.3, every country and company involved in the food supply chain should set food loss and waste reduction targets.
Measure: Not only businesses but also governments should quantify and report on food loss and waste. Progress should be monitored overtime through 2030.
Act: Companies and governments should start the scaling of policies, investments, incentives, and practices that reduce food loss and waste.

In practice: Dutch food caterer sets up “Food Waste Factory”

In the Netherlands only, up to 50 kilograms of food per person is wasted annually. Dutch food service organization Hutten has recognized the opportunity to tackle food waste on a large scale and opened the “Food Waste Factory” (in Dutch: Verspillingsfabriek) in April 2016. Hutten's goal  is to operate a factory that runs for 70% on organic waste residuals. Next to this, the “Food Waste Factory” serves a social purpose: 60% of its workforce has to consist of people with a distance to the labor market.

But how does the “Food Waste Factory” work? Products as fruits, vegetables, and meat that have been rejected due to quality requirements are being used to produce new food products. One example comes from a fast food restaurant that only uses some parts of a tomato, rejecting the heads and tails that are put to waste. The “Food Waste Factory” uses these parts to produce tomato soups and sauces which are sold in supermarkets and other retail stores branded as “Barstensvol”. As of August 2016, the products are available in over 130 supermarkets in the Netherlands.

Is food waste material for your organization?

On November 17th Finch & Beak in collaboration with PRé Sustainability will organize a Masterclass on Circular Economy co-hosted by the Verspillingsfabriek. If your organization intends to contribute to target 12.3 or the other Sustainable Development Goals, please contact Josée van der Hoek, Director, at or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Image source: Theresa Wright, Flickr

About Bas Nuijten

Sustainability professional aiming to help organizations to continuously improve their sustainability strategies. |

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