Business World

Wednesday 22 May 2019

'Global crisis' warning as food waste to grow by a third

Ellie Donnelly and Sonia Elks

Food waste could increase by almost a third by 2030 when more than two billion tonnes will be binned, researchers have said.

They warned of a "staggering" crisis propelled by a booming world population and changing habits in developing nations.

In Ireland, Iseult Ward, CEO and founder of FoodCloud, said that there is still work being done in terms of the data on the level of food waste in the country.

However, on a positive note, she said that all of the main supermarket retailers have committed to recording their food waste data.

"The Environmental Protection Agency is also monitoring food waste in Ireland, but we need to get more data," Ms Ward said.

FoodCloud, which operates in Ireland and the UK, has three redistribution hubs in Dublin, Galway, and Cork that connects food businesses which have large volumes of surplus food, such as farms, manufacturers and distributors, to charities.

In addition, FoodCloud provides an app service that helps it collect fresh surplus food directly from local shops and redistribute it.

The company facilitates the donation of more than 50,000 meals a day across Ireland and the UK. To date, it has redistributed more than 30 million meals in both Ireland and the UK to people who need it.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Ward said that more food donors were needed to increase the amount of food that was being redistributed to charities.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has set a target of halving food loss and waste by 2030.

But the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study found that if current trends continued, it would rise to 2.1 billion tonnes annually - an amount worth $1.5trn.

"We are seeing a real crisis at a global level," one of the study's authors Esben Hegnsholt told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The amounts of waste and the social, economic and environmental implications are serious if we don't change the trajectory. When we fight food loss and waste, we also fight hunger, poverty and global warming."

Around a third of the world's food is lost or thrown away each year. Currently, we waste 1.6 billion tons of food annually, worth about €1.04trn.

Much of the projected increase was down to a swelling world population, with more people resulting in more waste, said Mr Hegnsholt, a partner and managing director at BCG.

Household waste will increase in developing countries as consumers gain more disposable income, the report found.

It identified five key changes which it said could save nearly $700bn in lost food. They included more awareness among consumers, stronger regulations and better supply-chain efficiency and collaboration along the food production chain.

Liz Goodwin, director of the food loss and waste programme at the World Resources Institute, said the report raised serious issues but oversimplified some of the solutions.

"It's connected with the way our lives have changed and the fact that food is now so much cheaper," she said, also citing a growing demand for convenience and a lack of cooking skills among younger generations.

Goodwin said she believed measures to cut wastage were having an effect, and the world would at least be on the way to meeting the 50pc reduction target by 2030. (Additional reporting Reuters)

Irish Independent

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