Food Fight: Global Food Waste Index
Food waste is a global problem with local solutions. Each nation will have unique challenges, varied infrastructure, different cultures and far-reaching solutions to tackle waste, but which nations are having the most success?
Our Global Food Waste Index aims to shine a spotlight on the nations who are harnessing innovative solutions to tackle this global problem on a national level. Our experts have analysed food waste data from around the world to determine the nations who are working hard to tackle food waste.
The index score has taken 30 nations with the highest GDP per capita and measured them based on the following factors:
- Food waste per person, per year (kg)
- Food waste equivalent in meals per person per year
- Food waste in the context of total food production (%)
- Food Loss per country (kg)
- Number of people per fast food restaurant
- Number of published food loss policies per country
- Consumer food waste policy response
- Total food waste at end-user level
Nations Leading the Fight to Curb Food Waste
The Food Waste Index has determined the Czech Republic to be the nation with the most measures in place scoring 48.5 out of 80 points on the Food Waste Index. They are closely followed by Japan and the United Kingdom scoring 48 points in total.
Spotlight on Japan
The Japanese government has been urging the public to reduce wasted food for a number of years and has many admirable methods in place.
Food purchased in Japanese supermarkets are labelled with “consumption period” and “savoury” period dates. Similar to “best before” and “use by” dates here in the UK. There have been a lot of educational messages in Japan to ensure consumers know that food which has passed the “savory period” may not taste as good, but is still safe to eat.
Smartphones have played a major role in the reduction of food waste in Japan, a mobile App was launched (TABETE, which means “Please eat” in Japanese), with the aim of harnessing location-based technology to redistribute food from restaurants that may otherwise go to waste. As reported in the Global Times, during COVID-19, this technology helped to match up consumers with food that would otherwise have gone to waste.
Spotlight on Italy
Our food waste index puts Italy within the top 20 nations doing the most to tackle food waste, so we discovered the solutions they have put in place.
In 2016, the Italian government passed a law to ensure that supermarkets and restaurants were able to donate more of their wasted food to charity without risking fines and taxes. This followed the footsteps of France who were the first European nation to put enforceable food waste measures in place.
In Italy, rather than penalising retailers who throw away food, the new law makes it easier for food to be donated, following a reform of tax laws which made it difficult to donate unsold food which they hope will tackle their food waste issue.
How can we build a more sustainable global food system for our planet?
“Less than a third of people know that wasting food contributes to climate change. If every person in the UK wasted no food at home for one day, it could have the same impact on greenhouse gases as planting half a million trees” 4
The UN has a goal to cut the current amount of global food waste by 50% around the world and according to WRAP, this would have a seriously positive impact.
- We would no longer need to convert an area the size of Argentina into agricultural land, which if we continue to consume at the rate that we do, we’d need to.
- Achieving this target would also lower greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigatons per year – which is more than the current emissions of Japan
WRAP research reveals that while 81% of people in the UK are concerned about climate change, fewer than 30% can see a clear link with wasting food.
COVID-19 and the Impact on Global Food Waste
“Almost four in five UK citizens (79%) undertook additional food management behaviours during lockdown, and these behaviours endured as lockdown eased” 5
According to Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, “COVID-19 has demonstrated that businesses and people are ready to rethink the way the world produces and consumes food”.
The UK is continuing to experience the pandemic, and with the added pressures of a brand new lockdown, it’s encouraging to see that the food waste reduction habits formed during the first lockdown are enduring:
- 91% who checked date labels more in the first lockdown are still doing so
- 87% who started using leftovers are still doing this
- 85% who started freezing leftovers are continuing with this
Rachelle Strauss from Zero Waste Week explains that whilst food waste levels reduced during the first UK lockdown, there is still work to do to keep levels low.
“At the beginning of March, there were many reports of panic buying, then subsequent food wastage. But as lockdown continued, we learned that people were growing their own food, seeking out supplies and getting really creative in the kitchen.
“One of the ways to ensure this habit lasts, is to help people recognise the benefits they personally receive. Not to tell them, but to invite them to explore their own positive experience.
“Have they saved money? Have they discovered a new favourite recipe? Are mealtimes less stressful? Do they feel more in control? Do they feel good about reducing their carbon footprint? Once you understand, personally, the benefits, you’re more likely to keep those habits in place.”
The Zero Waste Week team have offered five key action points that governments around the globe should endeavour to put in place to achieve their target of reducing global food waste by 50% within this decade.
1. More help from governments to redistribute food surplus.
Most redistribution in many countries is run by volunteers and goodwill. Tax breaks and proper funding should be accessible to all organisations that work within the food surplus sector and that includes tax breaks for companies that offer their food surplus for redistribution.
It should never be more cost effective for a business to send food to landfill or even anaerobic digestion than to donate it to be eaten by people.
2. End the confusion around best before dates
As well as ending confusion around dates, it’s important to ensure that all ‘use by’ dates are believable and properly researched.
For example, we found out that, due to unclear guidelines for retailers selling from a deli counter, soft cheese might be labelled with ‘use by’ three days from when it was purchased. Hard cheese might be labelled five days from purchase. This bears no relation to the reality of how long the cheese is in the shop before it is sold, nor when that cheese is truly at its best.
3. Improve education
It is clear from the changes we’ve seen during lockdown that we need to provide people with a more comprehensive education about food preparation and food safety and the overall impact.
Our job at Zero Waste Week involves speaking to businesses, their employees and householders to educate them about these issues and empower them to make impactful changes. We do this through online courses and on-site visits.
4. The power of film and television.
The Blue Planet effect has done wonders to raise awareness of plastic pollution.
Food production, the dangers of mass-production and the amount of food that is wasted needs to have a similarly powerful messaging going into every household on prime time tv.
Furthermore, the film and tv industry should take a long hard look at its accidental portrayal of food waste as being socially acceptable. We should never be given the impression that it is ok or cool to push away a plate of food or throw edible food in the bin.
5. Pay as you throw.
Some countries operate pay as you throw schemes where residents have their waste weighed and receive a bill for disposal. We have the technology to implement such systems. Why are we not making better use of this technology?
What is Gousto doing to tackle the problem of food waste?
At Gousto, we are creating a sustainable solution to tackle the problem of food waste. We’re proud to say that over the past eight years, we’ve helped thousands of UK families serve up nutritious, home-cooked meals, without food waste.
Zero food waste has always been at the heart of our business, because of the negative impact it has on both families and the environment. Food that ends up in landfill produces methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.
- Forecasting first: Thanks to our AI forecasting system, we are able to buy fresh food from our suppliers, based on the actual number of customer orders, rather than guessing in advance (which is how supermarkets stock their shelves).
- Precise ingredients: We send precise, perfectly-measured ingredients, so you have what you need to prepare the right portions, no more and no less. Resulting in minimal food waste in our factory and no household waste.
That means you can say goodbye to half-full cans of coconut milk in the fridge, or unused jars of nigella seeds in the spice rack, and hello to the right portions and zero food waste! Wins all round.
CEO and Founder of Gousto, Timo Boldt says;
“I founded Gousto eight years ago to tackle the issue of food waste while delivering delicious meals to UK dinner tables. I’m incredibly proud of the strides that we have made in that time.
“Delivering precise ingredients means no household food waste for Gousto customers, and AI forecasting allows us to keep food waste to an absolute minimum in our fulfilment centres by helping to predict how many orders we’ll have each week so we don’t over order from our suppliers.
“I’m so pleased to see the UK continues to be mindful of the huge issue of food waste, despite the current challenges that many people are experiencing. It’s important that we work together to find even more ways to take food waste out of the system.”
Check out more of our blog posts on ways you can start your zero waste journey, right from your own kitchen.
12 Food Scraps You Didn’t Know Were Edible
Start your zero waste journey with these surprisingly simple food waste hacks.
Seven Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze
These seven foods are often left on the side of the road for pick up on dustbin day, but we discovered that by popping them in the freezer, you’ll be able to keep them a lot longer than you thought.
How to make your fresh herbs last longer
Gousto’s team of chefs have picked a few fresh tips to keep your parsley, sage and rosemary from expiring before their …thyme.
How To Store Fresh Fruit & Veg So They Last Longer
When you store fresh ingredients properly, everyone wins – your dinner, your bank account, and the planet. So, here are the best ways to store fresh fruit and vegetables, to keep them fresh for you to enjoy for longer.
Methodology and Sources:
The Global Food Waste Index takes a seed list based on a hybrid mix of the top 30 countries with the highest GDP per capita combined with available information on the Food Sustainability Index and WRAP.
Using a weighted scoring system, each nation was measured based on the following 10 factors, to determine the countries with the most policies in place to tackle food waste.
- Food Waste per person, per year (kg) [Source]
- Food waste equivalent in meals per person per year [Source]
- Food waste in the context of total food production (%) [Source]
- Food loss [Source]
- Number of people per fast food restaurant [Source]
- Number of published food loss policies per country [Source]
- Consumer food waste policy response [Source]
- Total food waste at end-user level [Source]