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Food waste index report 2021: what you need to know

While January marks a time for new beginnings, it also allows time for reflection on the previous year. Despite the global pandemic and its impact throughout 2021, governments, organizations and individuals across the globe have continued to battle the impending climate crisis.

During the last year, UNEP released the Food Waste Index Report 2021, intending to support their Sustainable Development Goals. In today’s article, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the report and explain what it means for the fight against food waste in Canada.

What Is UNEP?

UNEP stands for United Nations Environment Programme and was kickstarted in 1972. Since then, it’s been the primary global authority on environmental matters, setting out the plan for positive change across the globe. As well as setting out guidelines and recommendations, UNEP also promotes the implementation of sustainable development throughout the UN while advocating for the global environment.

The organization is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and works on a global, national and regional level. As far as environmental activism goes, they have a huge part to play.

What Is the Food Waste Index Report 2021?

If you’re interested in environmentalism or you’ve found yourself on this blog for another reason, you’re probably wondering what on earth the Food Waste Index Report 2021 actually is?

As part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the organization has set out specific objectives and parameters for member nations to meet in order to tackle the food waste problem. The fundamental goal that the report supports is SDG 12.3:

By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

Since 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted across the globe every year, it’s not hard to see why these goals are needed. The Food Waste Index Report presents the most comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis, and modelling, looking at avoidable and unavoidable waste. This has allowed UNEP to generate new estimates of global food waste and:

  • Publish a methodology for countries to better measure food waste at household, service and retail levels – some of the most significant waste contributors
  • Track progress towards 2030 and report on SDG 12.3

What Does the Report Tell Us About Global Food Waste?

According to the Food Waste Index Report, an estimated 931 million tonnes of food, or 17% of total food available to consumers, went into the bin in 2019. This statistic includes the contributions of households, retailers, restaurants and other food services uncovered by UNEP and WRAP, their partner organization. The weight of this waste roughly equates to 23 million fully-loaded 40-tonne trucks, enough to circle the earth seven times.

As well as a general estimate of how much food has been wasted, the report dives into more detail about the countries contributing to the figure. The report shows that in nearly every country that has measured food waste, the amount was substantial, regardless of that nation’s level of income.

It demonstrates that most waste comes from households that discard 11% of the total food available at the supply chain’s consumption level. In comparison, food services and retail outlets were shown to contribute 5% and 2% of waste each year. The Index Report presents some striking realities in terms of global capita numbers: 121kg of consumer-level food is wasted every year – 74kg accounted to households. It really is no wonder that SDG 12.3 was created in a bid to cut this number.

Overview: Canada’s Food Waste

Now we’ve assessed the Food Waste Index Report from a global perspective, let’s take a look at Canada’s food waste.

High Confidence to Track Waste

One of the major revelations in the report about food waste in Canada is that we’re more than capable of estimating and tracking food waste data as a nation. UNEP’s studies uncovered more relevant data than expected, with 152 food waste data points identified in 54 countries. These countries were ranked by their confidence level – essentially, their suitability for tracking national levels of food waste as part of a robust methodology. When rated to be high confidence, the estimates included in the report can be viewed as accurate.

Canada entered the high confidence ranking for household waste only, while similar nations like the USA and the United Kingdom were also ranked high for both retail and food service waste too.

Key Statistics On Food Waste In Canada

Let’s take a look at some key statistics the report has to offer about Canada’s household food waste, by far the most significant contributing sector.

  • Household food waste estimate (kg/capita/year) – 79
  • Household food waste estimate (tonnes/year) – 2,938,321

While we might have scored highly on our ability to track waste, we’ve still got a long way to go if we want to reduce our impact. Food waste in North America and Canada is extremely high, primarily due to consumer behaviour.

Let’s take a look at some of the impacts.

What Are the Impacts of Food Waste?

Whether you’re a passionate activist already or you’re still wondering ‘what is food waste’, it’s essential for everyone to take note of the impacts this crisis has on the planet. As well as the general contributions to climate change and global warming, food waste also has a knock-on effect that harms communities and environments all over the globe.

Some of those impacts include:

  • Harm caused to biodiversity through landfills and excessive, wasteful farming
  • Wastewater, caused by farming more food than we actually need
  • Excessive methane emissions released by decaying landfills
  • Land destroyed or overtaken by agriculture, often harming communities

No matter who you are or what country you live in, it’s essential that everyone sits up and takes note of the Food Waste Index Report 2021. UNEP is urging the world to be more conscious of their food waste – not just the government’s leading us forward, but the individuals that make up every nation.

Want to find out how to reassess your own impact and start wasting less for the planet? Read our blog on the 6 most wasted foods and find out how to make a difference.