Why we need to think beyond the bin to solve global food waste

At Feedback, we have always argued that the scandal of food waste goes far beyond what consumers throw in their bin (see our founder’s TED talk from 2012). Our inefficient food system churns out mountains of food waste, many of which is lost along the food supply chain before ever reaching supermarket shelves.

A new study supports our argument and suggests that the scale of food lost in the supply chain is massive – 44% of crops are lost before human consumption. Combining inefficiencies in food production, over- consumption and consumer waste totals 2.1 billion tonnes of crops, that’s almost half of all crops wasted!

Inefficiencies in livestock production

Feedback has consistently argued that the way we feed livestock is wasteful. 36% of crops grown in the world are used to feed animals but they only deliver 12% of global calories. This is why we launched The Pig Idea campaign to return to the common sense approach of feeding food waste to pigs.  This new research strengthens our argument and highlights that livestock production is the least efficient process in our food system, with losses of 78 per cent or 840 million tonnes! Inefficiencies in livestock production alone accounts for 40% of all losses of harvested crops.

Over-consumption as waste

This study also classified over-consumption (food consumed beyond nutritional requirement) as food waste and showed that it is at least as substantial as the losses from food thrown away by consumers. Of all the food provided to consumers a tenth of it is lost to over-eating. We need to start having a real conversation about our increasing appetites which put increasing pressure on the planet to produce food we don’t need.

Moving beyond consumer waste – changing the food system

This research highlights that we need to look at the food system holistically and reinforces our argument that you cannot separate the waste issue from livestock production and over-consumption. Many organisations focus on reducing consumer food waste, but we believe this is the tip of the iceberg. To fully address the global waste scandal we need to look beyond household bins. We need to work  together to create a food system that produces good food for all.

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