Reducing food loss and waste can play a key role in the transformation of agrifood systems, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said today (Friday, September 29).

On International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste today the FAO also warned that many agrifood systems are “unsustainable” because they degrade agricultural land, contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, loss of biodiversity and consume groundwater.

In Ireland the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that the country generated 753,000t of food waste in 2021. 

According to the FAO by reducing food loss and also food waste reduction could help countries reduce GHG and move closer to their climate ambitions.

FAO director general, QU Dongyu, said: “We need collective action to scale up efforts to reduce food loss and waste while reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.

Food waste and Ireland

The Irish government has given a commitment to reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 – which is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Earlier this year funding of almost €180,000 was awarded by the government to support food waste reduction project the FoodCloud Growers Project.

Speaking in Co. Donegal today the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said tackling food waste is a key element in achieving a sustainable food system.

Donegal Local Development Company is working closely with FoodCloud through its partnership on the FoodCloud’s Growers Project which involves the re-distribution of fresh produce, which otherwise may have gone to waste, to those in need.

Minister McConalogue said: “The key to leadership in sustainable food systems is to achieve a genuine balance between the three dimensions of sustainability, social, economic and environmental sustainability.

“Taking action to tackle food waste will be one of the key elements to achieving this. I am pleased that my department could fund the FoodCloud’s Growers Project this year through the Rural Innovation and Development Fund.”

Global food waste

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

Between 691 and 783 million people faced hunger in 2022, with a mid-range of 735 million, according to the FAO.

According to the FAO reaching the sustainable goal is “a dire necessity to positively impact the pace of agri-food system transformation”.

According to Eurostat, in 2021 around 131 kilogrammes (kg) of food per inhabitant was wasted in the EU.

The information provided by Eurostat is part of the first dedicated statistical monitoring of the amount of food waste in the EU by sector of activity according to the statistical classification of economic activities by the EU.

In total, the EU produced 58.4 million tonnes of food waste, which includes edible and inedible parts. 

Among all economic groups, household waste accounted for the most waste at 54% of the total, the equivalent of 70 kg per inhabitant.

Source: Eurostat

The remaining 46% was waste generated upwards in the food supply chain.

A total of 21% came from the manufacture of food products and beverages group (28 kg); 9% by restaurants and food services (12 kg); 9% in the primary production (11 kg); and 7% in the retail group (9 kg).