The global food system is a complex and intricate one with rather alarming food waste statistics. It’s a system that needs a carefully created strategy to tackle food waste and improve its management on all levels, including farms, distributors, grocery stores, and households.
In this article, we’ll give you a better idea of how much of a concerning problem food waste is and what people can do to manage it.
The Top 10 Food Waste Facts and Stats
- On a global scale, nearly one-third of the food produced for human consumption goes to waste.
- By 2030, the global amount of food wasted may almost double.
- Food waste statistics show that Australia had the most food waste in 2017.
- Fruits and vegetables are the most-wasted foods globally.
- The US produced 39.7 million tons of solid municipal waste in 2015 alone.
- US restaurants waste billions of pounds of food annually, according to food waste statistics in America.
- Landfills with food waste are potentially harmful.
- Burning food waste for energy can undermine recycling efforts.
- Recycling food waste would reduce the soil needed to produce pig feed in the EU by 20%.
- Food waste can be repurposed as bioenergy.
General Food Waste Facts and Stats
Here a few facts and statistics to highlight the scale of the problem of food waste.
1. On a global scale, nearly one-third of the food produced for human consumption goes to waste.
That amounts to around 1.3 billion tons each year.
2. Food waste costs the global economy trillions.
The global food wastage issue is estimated to cost around $2.6 trillion annually.
3. By 2030, the global amount of food waste may almost double.
(Boston Consulting Group)
The food waste statistics for the world as a whole reveal that, in 10 years, the amount of food wasted globally will hit 2.1 billion tons, accounting for nearly $1.5 trillion in lost revenue.
4. Food waste statistics show that Australia had the most food waste in 2017.
When looking at how much food waste per person is generated in different countries each year, food waste statistics from 2017 show that Australia takes the lead in this aspect, with 361 kilograms of food wasted per person.
The country’s national total was around 8.95 billion kilograms, which made them the ninth largest country in terms of food waste in 2017.
5. The US ranked 2nd on the list of countries that wasted the most food in 2017.
With 278 kilograms per person, the United States got second place. When looking at food waste statistics, US citizens waste more food in a year than people from Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined.
6. Fruits and vegetables are the most wasted foods globally.
According to global food waste statistics from 2017, vegetables and fruits fall into the category of the most-wasted foods.
They accounted for 38% of the total volume of wasted food worldwide in that year.
7. In 2017, fruits and vegetables were the most wasted foods in the US.
When taking an in-depth look at the food waste in America, the statistics from 2017 are somewhat similar to those of global magnitudes.
That being said, in 2017, out of all the food waste coming from restaurants, households, and retail, 39% were fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, 28% were leftovers and prepared foods, while the third on the list were grease, oils, and liquids.
8. The US residential sector wastes a significant amount of food.
Professionals often state that most people aren’t even aware of the amount of food they are wasting.
One of the most alarming food waste facts is that the US residential sector threw out a whopping 39.6 million wet tons of food that year in 2017.
9. EPA’s data suggests that, in 2015, the US produced 39.7 million tons of solid municipal waste.
(Tommy’s Superfoods, FDA)
When speaking about food waste in America, the facts are quite obvious. Apart from it being an alarming environmental issue, it’s also a costly endeavor.
Older available figures show that around 30–40% of the American food supply is being wasted. On the consumer and retailer levels, this is about 31%, which amounts to $161 billion.
10. Reducing food waste requires a complex strategy.
(US Department of Agriculture)
When it comes to the question of how to reduce food waste in America, the US Department of Agriculture states that improved food supply chain methods from production to the actual meal preparation at home can significantly reduce the buildup of food waste.
They also mention that donating the excess to those living in food insecurity or hunger-relief organizations can make a drastic difference.
On the other hand, the department also claims that repurposing and recycling food waste into compost, bioenergy, or animal feed can also tackle the problem and make a positive impact on the current US food waste statistics.
11. Grocery store food waste statistics reveal great numbers.
Supermarket food waste statistics reveal that around 43 billion pounds of food (or 10%) will never actually make it off grocery store shelves.
A bit over 10 percent of both fruits and vegetables are never sold, and, typically, a grocery store’s trash is 30% food waste.
12. US restaurants waste billions of pounds of food annually.
US restaurant food waste statistics are also quite worrying. According to the National Resources and Defense Council’s data, an estimated 22–33 billion pounds of food is wasted by restaurants each year.
Alarming Facts About Food Waste
Here are a few figures and facts that may give you a better idea of why not properly managing food waste could be extremely harmful.
13. EPA food waste data suggests that a little less than a quarter of all food waste in the US ends up in landfills.
According to their estimates, around 22% of all wasted food ended up in landfills in 2017, while another 22% reached combustion facilities.
In that year, more food reached these places than any other type of waste. Also, the data shows that around 20% of US methane emissions can be traced to landfills.
14. Landfills that contain food waste are potentially harmful.
When addressing the problems of food waste, the facts can be quite grim.
For example, on landfill sites, the falling rain can make inorganic and organic (from food waste) constituents dissolve, creating highly toxic compounds.
These chemicals can then get into groundwaters and potentially harm the surrounding areas and impact soil fertility.
Also, as the buried organic waste decomposes, it releases methane, contributing to global warming.
15. Landfill wastes can pose potential health risks as well.
An older paper published by Maheswari et al. in 2015 has linked both long and short-term health problems to landfills, including labor complications, headaches, allergies, and even cancer.
These problems can also be considered as facts about food waste since organic waste poses potential health problems when decomposing, and it’s mixed with other substances.
16. Burning food waste for energy can undermine recycling efforts.
The EU issued several action plans and directives over the years to create a greener circular economy and established a large number of directives regarding waste management.
But over the years, new action proposals have been issued out of necessity.
By assessing waste management trends, it was clear that there was room for improvement in regards to waste recycling vs. incineration.
The implementation of these plans would also change the statistics on food waste for the better.
Solving the Food Waste Problem
Here are a few things that can help reduce the problem and manage it better.
17. Food waste can be reused as animal feed.
The EU annually processes around 3.5 million tons of former food into animal feed, and it also has the potential to double this capacity.
18. Recycling food waste would reduce the soil needed to produce pig feed by 20% in the EU.
Food waste organizations and other professionals state that that 20% is equal to the size of Wales.
19. Food waste can be repurposed as bioenergy.
As organic materials such as food waste, plants, and animal products, break down, they convert into gases like CO2 and methane, which can be used in producing electricity, heat, or fuel.
20. The European Union is at the forefront of biomethane production.
Not only to help reduce food waste stats figures but to decarbonize the gas market as well.
The European Biogas Association stated in 2017 that by 2030, biogas production in the EU could reach 50Bcm/year, which is around 10% of the EU’s current consumption of natural gas.
21. How much food is wasted in restaurants every day?
Giving an exact number of how much food is wasted on a global scale is extremely difficult.
However, a few older reports suggest that, in an average American restaurant, around half of a pound of food is wasted with every single meal.
Also, the data from recent years show that around 85% of the food that isn’t used will eventually get thrown out.
Conversely, among the more concerning restaurant food waste facts, British professionals estimate that around 199,100 tons of food waste is produced by UK restaurants yearly.
(GreenBlue, NPR, Move For Hunger, Business Insider, Modern Restaurant Management)
22. Which country wastes the most food?
When looking at the amount of food wasted per capita, the data from 2017 suggests that Australia is the most wasteful country in this regard, with an estimated 361 kilograms of food wasted per person each year.
The second country on the list is the United States with 278 kilograms, and the third is Turkey, with 168.
23. What is bad about food waste?
First of all, it’s terrible for the environment.
Approximately one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions caused by man come from wasted food.
If we could identify food waste as a country, it would be among the top three list of greenhouse gas-producing countries with China and the US.
As food waste degrades, it produces large amounts of methane that’s more harmful than CO2.
24. Why is food thrown away?
There are many reasons behind the production of food waste, and the two main (and probably simplest) ones are buying food in excess and not eating it in time.
Some people cook too much and don’t know what to do with leftovers. Others end up eating out at the last minute instead of preparing a home-cooked meal.
On the other hand, a lot of food or ingredients can also be wasted during production, processing, and retail at various points.
25. Where does food waste go?
The best-case scenario is that the food that ends up on our plate doesn’t go to waste.
The worst-case scenario is that it gets dumped on landfills, and, as it decomposes, it damages the environment and the communities living near these landfills.
Food can also be reused as energy, or incinerated, which can potentially harm the environment.
Among the better options is repurposing the waste as animal feed. It can also be reused to produce biogas or compost.
26. How can we prevent food waste?
The best way to prevent it is by aiming not to create it in the first place.
Also, to answer the question of how to reduce food waste, professionals from the US Department of Agriculture state that, with improved product development, marketing, labeling, shopping, and cooking methods, waste can be avoided or significantly reduced.
Donating excess food to hunger-relief organizations can also be a great way to tackle the problem.
In some cases, inedible food can be recycled and reused as other products. They can be used either as animal feed, compost, or turned into bioenergy, clothing, or bioplastics.
Many food waste articles point out that it’s hard to monitor every segment of the food’s path from the farms to kitchens and pinpoint exact areas where significant improvements are needed.
Conversely, producers, manufacturers, restaurants, retailers, and households need to be environmentally-conscious regarding the subject and should look for methods to minimize waste production overall.
These food waste statistics show that the situation is alarming, but it’s also something we can immediately try to change and minimize its damage to the environment and our health.
- Boston Consulting Group
- Business Insider
- Modern Restaurant Management
- Move For Hunger
- Oxford Energy
- Quadram Institute
- Recycle For Buckinghamshire
- Science Direct
- Semantic Scholar
- Tommy’s Superfoods
- Too Good To Go
- US Department of Agriculture