With the global population rising, wastage of products including 45% of all fruit and vegetables and 20% of meat is one of the greatest challenges to achieving food security
The most wasted meat, by both percentage and weight, is poultry, of which 13% of all edible parts (not including bones) is wasted, and the most wasted fruit by percentage is melon, with the equivalent of more than a quarter of each melon thrown in the bin.
The UK has made progress in the past 10 years after a concerted campaign to reduce wastage. It is singled out by Van Otterdijk as “one of the great successes” in combating food waste.
Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of avoidable food waste produced by UK households decreased by 21%, from 5.3m tonnes to 4.2m tonnes, largely due to greater awareness as a result of campaigns such as Wrap’s Love Food, Hate Waste. Of the food that is not eaten, less is ending up in landfill. In 2000-01, only 14% of household waste was recycled or composted, but by 2011-12 the amount of composted food had risen to 43%.
“We have had feedback from people internationally that they do look to the UK as an example,” says Dr David Moon, head of food sustainability at Wrap UK. “But considering the levels of waste we have there’s considerably more to do. For every 2 tonnes of food and drink consumed in the home, there’s another tonne of food going to waste at some point in the chain – whether that’s production, retail or manufacturing.”
Van Otterdijk says there has been a “very encouraging, unexpected, continuing interest” in the subject of food waste, enabling grass-roots campaigns around the world to gain traction.
“We have to do much more and it needs the participation of public and private sectors,” he says. “But if it continues like this, with the same momentum, maybe after 10 years we’ll have globally significant results.”