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Gulfood Green 2024

15 Mar 2024

Future of Food: Responsible waste management

Future of Food: Responsible waste management
Building a food system that is zero-waste and circular by design

Tackling food waste provides an enormous opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of food production. Moreover, food waste reduction has the potential to create business value. There is a surprisingly wide array of practices to reduce or ‘upcycle’ waste. It is key to understand which combination of practices will create the most impact and business value. A host of recent innovations can help bring clarity as well as solutions.

The immense need to tackle global food waste

More than one-third of global food production – around 1.3 billion tons of food – is lost or wasted annually. Unless we take urgent action, global waste will grow by 70 percent by 2050. Food waste is driving up costs for consumers and the food industry, and is putting a disproportionate burden on our already strained planet.

Minimising food waste could lead to substantial environmental and economic gains, as well as improved food security for the world’s poorest. This makes sense for all stakeholders in the food system and for humanity at large. It comes as no surprise that eliminating food waste is one of the pillars of the EAT-Lancet Commission. We urgently need to reduce the total amount of food wasted and find new ways to deal with the waste we have.

There are many roads leading to Rome, but we need to chart the shortest course

The best way to reduce waste is to prevent it. Approximately half of total food waste in the industrialised world occurs at the consumption stage. This suggests that a large impact can be made through initiatives targeted at consumers. Awareness campaigns can help consumers to reduce overbuying, preserve food longer, recycle food scraps and not waste perfectly edible food. Various supermarkets worldwide try to address this last issue by selling ‘ugly’ produce as a new food category. Another example are initiatives that connect consumers to share surplus food rather than letting it go to waste.

Significant gains can also be found in the often-long journey food makes before it ends up on consumers’ plates. This starts with understanding where waste is created throughout the supply chain: in sourcing, production, processing, storage, transportation and retail. To identify the most valuable combination of possible prevention initiatives, companies need to use these insights to weigh the benefits carefully against the cost of implementing them.

Half of total food waste in the industrialised world occurs at the consumption stage. Therefore, a large impact can be made through initiatives targeted at consumers.

Responsible waste management: opportunity areas

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