Irish food waste ‘contributes to €143 billion bill’

Ireland has one of the worst records for food waste in the EU, contributing to a total annual bill of €143 billion, according to a report from the European Commission (EC).

As well as the obvious consequences associated with climate change and global food poverty, food waste also reflects agricultural losses related to water, soil and energy.

While Europe’s most efficient state Slovenia produces total waste of just 72kg/person per year, Ireland’s waste amounts to 216kg/person per year, the figures revealed. 

The report’s author Biljana Borzan said: “The complexity of the problem calls for a coordinated policy response at the EU and member states level that takes into account policies regarding waste, food safety and information, but also aspects of economic, research and innovation, environment, agriculture, education and social policy”.

Households make up 53% of food waste, with processing (19%) and primary production (10%) also making substantial contributions, the estimates from the EC-funded Fusions (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) Project showed.

Ireland was ranked among Europe’s worst offenders, including the UK, Poland and Belgium. However, total food waste was still under half that of the Netherlands – at 541kg/person per year.

Yesterday, May 15, MEPs were due to debate proposals set out in the waste legislation package adopted in March to slash food waste across the EU by 50% by 2030.

Borzan added: “Food wastage happens along the entire food supply chain and all actors have a responsibility to take measures to prevent and reduce the problem.

“With that being said, the problem of food waste and food loss is more complex than just the waste dimension.

“Questions such as labelling, liability, education, and sharing of best practices, require further attention and highlight the need for a coordinated policy response across policy areas.”

Earlier this year, the European Court of Auditors warned that a number of EU policies targeted at reducing food waste were not being exploited to their full potential.

Food waste has a global carbon footprint of about 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, research from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization shows.