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UN says that if food waste was a country, it’d be the #3 global greenhouse gas emitter

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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According to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global food waste represents more greenhouse gas emissions than any country in the world except for China and the United States. In their report “Food wastage footprint,” the U.N. states that more than 1.3 billion tonnes of food are thrown away each year, representing 3.3 billion tonnes in annual carbon dioxide emissions.

In their press release, the FAO states that:

“…food that is produced but not eaten each year guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.”

The bulk of this waste comes from consumers who buy more food than they consume (mostly in developed economies) and from a lack of storage facilities (mostly in the developing world). High-income countries (excluding Latin America) are responsible for 67% of global meat waste.

So, what now?

The FAO has released a “tool-kit” of actions that can be taken throughout the food chain to reduce food waste. Included are examples of projects that have been taken on by national and local governments, farmers, businesses, and individual consumers to reduce food waste.

Related Posts:

  1. America’s “Supersized” Food Waste – May 16, 2012
  2. “Guest Post: Food for thought – the good, the bad, and the ugly” – October 3, 2011
  3. “10 Calories in, 1 Calorie out – the energy we spend on food” – August 11, 2011
  4. Food waste in the land of “Man v Food”” – August 2, 2011

Photo Credit: David Wogan – used with permission


Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. rkipling 3:36 pm 09/12/2013

    This same topic was posted on the site yesterday.

    I assume you didn’t dig into how they determined the quantity of wasted food? You might want to examine how they did that along with details of the “tool kit.”

    St. Patrick était un ingénieur.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Shoshin 4:07 pm 09/12/2013

    Third biggest emmitter? Ban Food!!

    Link to this
  3. 3. rkipling 10:59 pm 09/12/2013

    Another interesting blog:

    Link to this
  4. 4. vapur 1:19 am 09/13/2013

    How can decaying rice be bad for the environment? Last I remember it was a part of natural processes that sustain an ecosystem. I’m pretty sure that can be extrapolated to other grains.

    Link to this
  5. 5. vapur 2:46 am 09/13/2013

    You know, what it seems like to me is that the UN is trying to justify burdening everyone on Earth with more debt using some excuse that will never go towards solving that particular problem. More likely, a money grab for green education campaigns that will later be reappropriated to other things rather than be relinquished. Maybe it’s just my perspective coloring my intuition, but local efforts should be encouraged to be more efficient instead.

    Link to this

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