One billion meals wasted daily in households worldwide: UNEP Report

KATHMANDU: A recent report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed a staggering statistic: at least one billion meals are wasted at the household level across the globe every day.

This means that on average, each person wastes 79kg of food per year. The Food Waste Index Report for 2024, published by UNEP on Wednesday, highlighted that this food waste, inclusive of edible items, is equivalent to 1.3 meals daily for those suffering from hunger globally.

According to the report, household food waste in Nepal stands at 93kg per capita annually, while in India and China, it stands at 55kg and 76kg per capita per year, respectively.

The report pointed out that in 2022, the world squandered 1.05 billion tonnes of food, amounting to one-fifth (19 per cent) of the food available to consumers being wasted at the retail, food service, and household levels.

This wastage is in addition to the 13 percent of the world’s food lost in the supply chain, as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from post-harvest up to but excluding retail.

Defined as 'food and the associated inedible parts removed from the human food supply chain,' the report termed food waste as a market failure, resulting in the disposal of over one trillion US dollars worth of food annually.

Moreover, it emphasized extensive links between food waste and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate actions, describing it as an environmental failure. Food waste reportedly generates an estimated 8–10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and utilizes nearly 30 per cent of the world’s agricultural land.

The report urged G20 countries to play a pivotal role in raising awareness about food waste at home, transferring knowledge on the matter to others, and fostering international cooperation and policy development to achieve SDG 12.3.

In response to the findings, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, stated, “Food waste is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world. Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature.”

Andersen added, “The good news is we know if countries prioritize this issue, they can significantly reverse food loss and waste, reduce climate impacts and economic losses, and accelerate progress on global goals.”

The report also highlighted South Asia as having the highest household food waste data points, with estimates from seven countries.

The authors of the report, Hamish Forbes, Eloise Peacock, Nettie Abbot, and Michael Jones (WRAP), emphasized the need to address food waste at individual and systemic levels, setting targets, and channeling efforts accordingly.

They stressed the importance of international collaboration among countries, both developed and developing, to tackle this global challenge.

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