Reducing Food Loss And Waste

On 3rd September, 2019, the World Resources Institute (WRI) with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation published a report - Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Action Agenda, highlighting the current scenario of food loss and waste across the globe.

Major Highlights of the Report

  • One-third of all food produced across the globe goes uneaten.
  • One in every nine person in the world is undernourished.
  • 50% of world's population now lives in a country that has set an explicit, public target aligned with SDG 12.3
  • The wastage of food also accounts for eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. These gases cause the greenhouse effect which is when radiation from the earth's atmosphere warms the planet's surface. The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has been identified as a major cause of climate change.
  • It put forward a Global Action Agenda that calls on governments, companies, farmers and consumers to collectively overcome “the world’s food loss and waste problem.
  • Most of the food loss happens “near the farm” predominantly in lower-income countries and most of the food waste happens “near the plate” predominantly in higher-income countries.

Difference between Food Loss and Food Waste

  • Food loss typically occurs at the production, storage, processing and distribution stages of the food value chain, and is the unintended result of agricultural processes or technical limitations in storage, infrastructure, packaging, and/or marketing.
  • Food waste refers to food that is of good quality and fit for human consumption but that does not get consumed because it is discarded—either before or after it spoils. It typically occurs at the retail and consumption stages in the food value chain and is the result of negligence or a conscious decision to throw food away.

Causes of Food Loss and Waste

  • Poor infrastructure
  • Inadequate equipment
  • Suboptimal packaging
  • Inadequate food management practices, skills or knowledge
  • Inflexible procurement practices
  • Poor Demand and Supply forecasting and planning
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Lack of Awareness
  • Climate
  • Poor Policies and Regulations


  • Economy: Nearly one-third of the food that is produced each year goes uneaten, costing the global economy over $940 billion.
  • Environment: The uneaten food is responsible for emitting about 8 percent of planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • Food Security: More than 1 billion metric tons of food per year is never consumed in a world where one in nine people are still undernourished.
  • Water Resources: Food loss and waste are associated with approximately 173 billion cubic meters of water consumption per year, which represents 24 percent of all water used for agriculture.

Measures to Reduce Food Loss and Waste

  • The report identifies three measures that can be considered for reducing loss and waste-
  • Target-Measure-Act: Set food loss and waste reduction targets, measure to identify hotspots of food loss and waste and to monitor progress over time, and take action on the hotspots.
  • To-do List:Pursue a short to-do list, identify per player in the food supply chain as “no regret” first steps toward taking action.
  • 10 Scaling Interventions:Collaborate in 10 areas to ramp up deployment of Target-Measure-At and to do list.

10 Scaling Interventions

  • Develop national strategies for reducing food loss and waste.
  • Create national public-private partnerships.
  • Launch a “10x20x30” supply chain initiative, where at least 10 corporate “power players” commit to Target-Measure-Act and then engage their own 20 largest suppliers to do the same and achieve a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by 2030.
  • Invigorate efforts to strengthen value chains and reduce smallholder losses.
  • Launch a “decade of storage solutions.”
  • Shift consumer social norms.
  • Go after greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
  • Scale up financing.
  • Overcome the data deficit.
  • Advance the research agenda.

Possible Approaches for Reducing Food Loss and Waste

Production Handling and Storage Processing and Packaging Distribution and Marketing


Facilitate donation of unmarketable crops Improve access to low-cost handling and storage technologies(e.g. evaporative coolers,storage bags, metal silos, crates) Re-engineer manufacturing processes Facilitate increased donation of unsold goods Facilitate increased donation of unsold goods from restaurants and caterers
Improve availability of agricultural extension services Improve ethylene and microbial management of food in storage Improve supply chain management Change food date labeling practices Conduct consumer Education campaigns
Improve market access
Introduce low-carbon refrigeration Improve packaging to keep food fresher for longer Change in-store  promotions

Reduce portion sizes

Improve harvesting techniques Improve infrastructure (e.g., roads)


Provide guidance on food storage and preparation to consumers Improve inventory systems Ensure homeeconomics taught in schools, colleges and communities

Benefits of Reducing Food loss and Waste

  • Availability of More Food:It would close the gap between food needed in 2050 and food available in 2010 by more than 20 percent.
  • Availability of More Land: It would avoid the need to convert an area the size of Argentina into agricultural land.
  • Huge Economy Saving:Not only has it been proven that national and city governments can save money through reducing food loss and waste, but also yield positive returns on investments in food loss and waste reduction efforts.
  • Less Pollution: It will further help lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050, an amount more than the current energy- and industry related emissions of Japan
  • More Jobs: It could play a modest role in job creation across the supply chain, ranging from smallholder processing facilities close to the farm to technology start-up companies that help redistribute food that would otherwise be wasted.
  • Boost to SDGs:In terms of the Sustainable Development Goals( SDGs), reducing food loss and waste can help meet various globally agreed aspirations, including SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), and SDG 13 (climate action).

Way Forward

  • Reducing food loss and waste can help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, contribute to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and sustainably feed the planet by 2050.
  • It requires action by a wide range of actors―households, companies, farmers, policymakers, and more. It also requires changes in technology, practices, behavior, and policy. It is evident that no single individual or group can sufficiently tackle this problem alone; collaboration is needed. Improved strategies for tackling consumption waste will need to be a priority forresearch and innovation for the global community dedicated to reducing food loss and waste.
  • Further, tackling the issue of food loss and waste can generate a “triple win.” Reductions can save money for farmers, companies, and households. Wasting less food means we can feed more people. And reductions can alleviate pressure on climate, as well as on water and land.