Food Wastage: One of the Greatest Global Challenges


Food Wastage: One of the Greatest Global Challenges
Muhammad Ishaq Asif Rehmani
Department of Agronomy, Ghazi University, Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan,

We consume food for provision of nutritional support to our body. Usually, it is of plant or animal origin and consists of essential nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, vitamins etc).

For proper functioning of our body, we need a specific amount of balanced food. Food provides energy and nutrients required for optimum growth, maintenance, and repair, of our body.

There are different types of food, and people consume a variety of foods from different sources to obtain the required nutrients and energy.

Food Production vs Food Waste
We are lacking accurate data to assess the volume of food generated across the world. However, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated that a significant part of food we produce i.e., around one-third or 1.6 billion tons is wasted.

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME), UK estimated food loss as two billion tons a year, approximately half of the food we produce. There are significant variations across the nations

Global Hunger Map, 2021, Source: Wlthungerhilfe Report 2021.

Rapidly increasing population of the world and inequalities in food availability, Food Waste & Loss lead to growing food insecurity. About 870 million people are suffering from chronic undernourishment. Currently Food Waste & Loss are among the greatest global challenges.

We are facing food losses throughout the food production process, from the farm to distribution, retailers, and till it reaches to the consumer. Reasons include losses from microbes, pests, or inadequate climate control, poor storage conditions, over; losses from cooking.

Food Loss vs Food Waste

Food Loss: All the edible commodities (crop and livestock human-edible) that completely exit (directly or indirectly) the post-harvest/ slaughter production/supply chain

  • Food Loss occurs before the food reaches the consumer because of issues in the production, storage, processing, and distribution phases.
  • Causes of such loss are natural shrinkage; loss from fungal, insect, and pest; inefficient food supply chains [poor logistics and infrastructure, inappropriate storage conditions, lack of technology, insufficient skills, knowledge and management capacity of stakeholders, and lack of access to market]

 (FAO, 2021, FAO 2013; Roka, 2020).

Food waste: Food that is fit for consumption but discarded or remained unused.

  • These are edible items left unconsumed, including food thrown away either because they are spoiled, not required, or expired e.g., thrown due to discoloration, de-shaped, broken packaging, etc, or discarded food (Roka, 2020). 

There are many reasons for food loss and waste,

  • Overproduction
  • Improper Storage
  • inefficient distribution
  • Poor Planning & Over-purchasing
  • Date Label confusion
  • Overpreparation or overprocessing / over-cooking
  • Lack of Freezing
  • consumer behavior, and
  • food safety regulations.

Source: FAO

Household food waste estimates (kg per capita per annum; million tonnes per annum) (Source: Food Waste Index Report; Business Today, India).

Globally China is estimated to be the largest household food waste producer, followed by India, Australia, USA and Pakistan. On the basis of population, people in Nigeria are producing the maximum quantity of household food waste (189 kg/capita/year), followed by Rwanda (164 kg/capita/year), Greece (142 kg/capita/year), Bahrain (132 kg/capita/year) and Malta (129 kg/capita/year). 

(Source: UNEP)

How much food is wasted around the world
It is estimated that a significant amount of food is wasted globally. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), estimates that approximately one-third of global food production is lost or wasted. Around 1.3 billion tons of food wastage is generated each year. Food accounts for over 21% of the municipal solid waste we generate.

Food waste occurs at various stages of the food supply chain, including during production, processing, distribution, and consumption. In developed countries, a large portion of food waste occurs at the consumer level, as people tend to buy more food than they can consume and throw away perfectly good food that has gone past its expiration date or has become cosmetically imperfect. In developing countries, food waste tends to occur more at the production and distribution stages due to factors such as inadequate infrastructure and a lack of access to markets.

Perishable fruits and vegetables contribute the largest share (44%) in global food losses and food waste, followed by roots & tubers (20%), Cereals (19%), milk (8%), and meat (3%).

Consequences of Food Wastage
Globally, food waste is a critical issue across nations, either developed or developing countries, indicating unsustainable food production, and consumption systems. This issue has serious environmental and socio-economic implications. It also contributes to food insecurity in many parts of the world

  • Emission of Greenhouse Gases: emission for production of extra food, emission from food waste (landfills generate methane)
  • Wastage of Resources: Land, water, agricultural inputs, energy, transport, packaging, etc
  • Emission to toxic gases from burning of wasted food in landfills
  • Loss of land to landfills
  • Increased municipal landfills
  • Production of toxic leachates deteriorating soil fertility and underground water
  • Extra financial liabilities and labor for handling solid waste and landfills
  • Management of large amounts of different degradable materials is a challenging task

Food production is a highly resource-intensive sector e.g., 40 liters of water are required to produce a slice of bread.

Combatting food waste
Reducing food waste can help to address these issues and contribute to a more sustainable and equitable food system. There are several ways to reduce or avoid food waste, including:

Efforts to reduce food waste have gained increasing attention in recent years, as a way to address both environmental and social issues. These efforts can include initiatives to improve food distribution and storage, encourage consumers to reduce their food waste, and recover and repurpose excess food.

  • Reduce the volume of surplus food generated.
    • Smart Shopping: Plan your grocery, buy only what you need, and don’t double up on unneeded groceries.
    • Plan meals, first consider what you already have
    • Shop in Your Own Fridge First
    • Label and Date the foods you store in the freezer bag.
    • Smart Food Preparation:
    • Smart Storage: Store food properly, it will extend food shelf life and reduce waste
    • Best before, Unsafe after Expiry date: Pay attention to expiration dates, and use perishable items at the earliest possible.
    • Smart Savings: Eat What You Buy: Be creative with leftovers, to increase their usage. Built habit of “Eat the Leftovers”, can be at weekends. It will increase your savings.
  • Donate extra food to Food Banks, Shelter homes, etc to feed hungry people
  • Divert food scraps to animal feed
  • Industrial uses: Waste oil and food scraps can be used for fuel and the generation of energy
  • Scrape food can be used for compost production, a nutrient-rich soil amendment for your garden. Prefer composting, rather than throwing it as trash.
  • Least-valued food waste can be collected in landfills
  • Improve or introduce new technologies
  • Re-evaluation of government policies and standards
  • Collection programs for unused food

(Source: US EPA)

These tips can help you to reduce Food Waste & Loss, and make a positive impact on the environment and your community.


  • Filimonau, V. and A. Gherbin, 2017: An exploratory study of food waste management practices in the UK grocery retail sector. Journal of Cleaner Production 167, 1184-1194.
  • Garcia-Garcia, G., E. Woolley, S. Rahimifard, J. Colwill, R. White and L. Needham, 2017: A Methodology for Sustainable Management of Food Waste. Waste and Biomass Valorization 8, 2209-2227.
  • Garcia-Garcia, G., E. Woolley and S. Rahimifard, 2015: A framework for a more efficient approach to food waste management. International Journal of Food Engineering 1, 65-72.
  • Roka, K., 2020: Environmental and Social Impacts of Food Waste. In: W. Leal Filho, A. M. Azul, L. Brandli, P. G. özuyar and T. Wall eds. Responsible Consumption and Production. pp. 216-227. Springer International Publishing, Cham.
  • FAO
  • ES EPA

Cite this article as:

Rehmani, M.I.A. 2022. Food Wastage: One of the Greatest Global Challenges. JEAS-Blog, Agropublishers, Multan, Pakistan

Copyright © JEAS  This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original author and source are appropriately cited and credited.

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5 Replies to “Food Wastage: One of the Greatest Global Challenges

  1. This article “Food Wastage: One of the Greatest Global Challenges” is really interesting and eye-catching. It is really informative and given suggestions are quite useful to recover and save the food. As there is a big challenge to save the food as we are facing severe food insecurity after COVID-19 and food prices are hiking day by day. I think a COVID-19 citing reference should also be added in this article. It’s really a wonderful topic. Writer focussed on all key issues.

    1. Thanks F. Nauman for your comment and suggestion. Soon we will try to address it.

    1. Several types of machinery can be used to convert food waste into fuel. It will depend on the conversion method.
      Major types

      1. Anaerobic digestion, breaking down organic matter in the absence of oxygen to produce biogas (a form of renewable energy). The biogas can be used to generate electricity, heat, or transportation fuel.

      2. Pyrolysis, which is a process that converts organic matter into syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide), through high-temperature heating in the absence of oxygen. The syngas produced through pyrolysis can be used as fuel for generating electricity or for producing chemicals and materials.
      There are also machines that can convert food waste into biochar (a porous, carbon-rich material) through controlled pyrolysis. Biochar can be used as a soil amendment or as a fuel.

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