Waste

EU wastes more food than it imports

EU wastes more food than it imports

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Published

September 26, 2022

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Published:

September 26, 2022

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At a time when 33 million citizens of the European Union cannot afford enough meals, each year, as many as 153.5 million tons of food are dumped. The new report on food waste reveals that more food is thrown away than is imported, causing at least 6% of greenhouse gas emissions, 

The EU wastes more food than it imports, which directly harms its food security due to the increase in living costs, warns a new report – No time to waste, published by environmentalist organization Feedback EU.

Food waste amounts to as much as 153.5 million tons of food annually. It causes at least 6% percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.

At a critical time for the food system, with losses in agriculture from unprecedented summer droughts and skyrocketing prices due to the war in Ukraine, about 20% of food produced in the EU ends up as waste. The amount of discarded wheat is equivalent to about half of the Ukrainian wheat exports, say campaigners.

The amount of discarded wheat is equivalent to approximately half of Ukrainian wheat exports

Eurostat data shows that 33 million European citizens cannot afford a quality meal every other day.

Waste across sectors

The report estimates that 89.8 million tons of food waste occur in primary production. In European households, 32.5 million tons are wasted annually, in the food services sector, 10.5 million tons, and in wholesale and retail, 5.3 million tons.

If the amount of food wasted in the EU is halved by 2030, it could save 4.7 million hectares of agricultural land.

In 2021, EU countries imported nearly 138 million tons of agricultural products for a total cost of about EUR 150 billion. The organization Feedback EU revealed that the food waste estimated costs are about EUR 143 billion a year.

Farm data could double waste volume

An international movement of 43 organizations from 20 European countries issued a joint statement on this `food waste scandal.` It urges the EU to introduce legally binding targets for all member states to halve farm-to-fork waste throughout the supply chain by 2030.

Organizations call on the EU to introduce legally binding targets for all member states to reduce waste

Feedback EU, the European Environment Bureau (EEB), and Zero Waste Europe, together with food waste businesses and members of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste – the EU’s official advisory body on food waste, point out that food waste reports in EU countries need to be revised to account all food waste.

The EU member state’s reports exclude food left unharvested or used on farms in primary production. If this is taken into account, it could double the amount of waste reported in the EU, food waste campaigners said.

Climate change issue

Food waste is also an urgent climate issue. Each year an estimated 2.5 billion tons of good and edible food is wasted globally, the food waste campaigners pointed out. It accounts for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Food waste creates methane emissions, which retain up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within five years and 72 times more within two decades. The methane leaves the atmosphere in a decade. This greenhouse gas has a short-lived but intense climate change impact.

If food waste is not composted and ends up in landfills, it can make flammable methane pockets and cause fires.

New legally binding targets

The European Commission is about to adopt a proposal for legally binding food waste reduction targets for EU member states by the end of the year. If adopted, it will be the first legislation of its kind worldwide, the EEB notes.

The revision of the 2018 Waste Framework Directive introduced a legal obligation for EU member states to measure food waste from 2020 onwards and to report to the EC.

It is necessary to set legally binding targets at every stage of the supply chain, to achieve the needed reduction of food waste, the environmental organizations pointed out.

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