Last Updated: April 18, 2023, 09:25 IST
Food waste accounts for half of the carbon emissions generated by the food industry. (Credits: AFP)
A recent scientific study highlights the significant impact of food waste on the environment.
With Earth Day on April 22 reminding us to take more effective actions to protect the natural resources that are so essential to our lives, a recent scientific study highlights the significant impact of food waste on the environment.
Back in July 2021, a study by WWF and Tesco revealed that 40% of the world’s food was wasted; now a comparative analysis conducted by researchers at Nanjing Forestry University in China, in conjunction with the National University of Singapore, is putting into stark relief the environmental disaster that this vast waste represents. One should keep in mind that the global food system is responsible for about one-third of total annual greenhouse gas emissions. In total, in 2017, scientists estimated that food waste generated 9.3 billion tons of CO2 (expressed in GtCO2e in the study published in the journal Nature Food). By comparison, this sum is almost equal to the combined total emissions of the United States and the European Union. And this is not without consequences for the planet: food waste is indeed responsible for half of the carbon emissions generated by the food industry.
By analyzing food supply data, this study provides new insights into the extent of the impact of food waste. It should be noted that in terms of supply, we are talking about harvesting as well as production, storage, transport, processing and sale. Scientists have taken into account data from the FAO — the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization — related to no less than 164 countries and regions, for the period between 2001 and 2017. In addition, the data of 54 food products corresponding to four major categories — cereals and pulses; meats and animal products; roots and oil plants; and fruits and vegetables — have been scrutinized. The findings show that when the data associated with China, India, the United States and Brazil are combined, these giants generate about 44% of the world’s supply-related emissions from food waste.
And it’s not grain, fruit or vegetable waste that is primarily responsible for CO2 emissions. Meat and animal products are responsible for 73.4% of global food supply waste emissions. Processing beef and lamb generates 13 times more carbon emissions than processing tomatoes.
The study wanted to look at the combination of food supply and waste management and the consequences to provide a broad, realistic view of the environmental impact of food waste. Once again, when China, the United States, India and Brazil are combined, these four countries generate 38% of global emissions linked to waste management.
The United Nations has set a goal of reducing food waste by half by 2030 as one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)