Global food waste explained (with five tomatoes)

by Lindsay Wilson in Food

Each year the world produces about 670 kg of edible food for every person on the planet, but we only eat about half of that.

In this video I use 5 tomatoes to explain where the rest goes.

It is important to remember that these figures are a global average.  

At an individual level someone who eats a lot of meat and wastes a large share of food can easily require over a tonne of food to support them, while in poorer parts of the world it can be a third of that.

Here are the links to the people doing great work I mentioned in the video:

FoodTank: read about them here, and become a sustainer here

Tristram Stuart: his website, Ted talk and book

ThinkEatSave: has a variety of different resources

About the data

The data in the video is the average per capita supply of edible food, which is about 670 kg (1471 lbs).  Total primary production (including inedible parts) is around 20% greater than this.

Here is the rough breakdown in per capita terms.

  • Animal feed:  88 kg (194 lbs)
  • Biofuel production:  15 kg (33 lbs)
  • Supply losses: 139 kg (305 lbs)
  • Consumer waste: 52 kg (114 lbs)
  • Consumption: 375 kg (825 lbs)

As noted earlier these figures vary greatly between regions, particularly in terms of animal feed and consumer waste.  The data is primarily drawn from the FAO’s report Global Food Losses and Food Waste, with some additional figures used for animal feed.

As I mentioned in the intro food has a huge environmental footprint:  24% of greenhouse gas emissions, 40% of land use, 70% of water use and 75% of deforestation.  Even more disturbing is the reality that the world produces enough calories to feed 14 billion people, but 800 million remain hungry.  While this is a complex issue, food waste contributes to this problem.

Please put any suggestions for other resources in the comments section and I’ll add them to the list ;-)

And don’t forget to sign up to our email list below, as we’ll be looking at food waste in the home in much more detail in the future.

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