What is the global food waste challenge and ambitions?
The global perception of the issue of food waste changed 10 years ago, when the FAO estimated that
“around 1/3 of the world’s food was lost or wasted between farm and fork every year.”
This represents an economic loss of $1 trillion dollars and 8 billion tonnes of unnecessary carbon emissions. According to Drawdown, one of the world’s leading resources for climate solutions, reducing our food waste is the number one solution to combat climate change.
Since the FAO released their food waste estimation, many global and national bodies have implemented action plans to address the food waste challenge.
In 2015 the United Nations and its 193 Member States signed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which 17 interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were established to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for the planet and its people. Reducing food waste is key to delivering SDG ambitions as set out in SDG 12.3;
“By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.”
So how is Ireland performing against these food waste targets?
Source: Food Waste Charter.ie
Ireland generates over 1 million tonnes of food waste per year, not including food loss from agriculture. But where is this food waste coming from? According to the EPA, 55% of food waste in Ireland is generated by the processing sector and 45% by commercial and household sectors.
Annually, Irish households produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste, with an average cost of €700 per household. While the commercial sector (food wholesale, food retail and food service) generates an estimated 200,000 tonnes of food waste each year.
How is Origin Green and its partner organisations addressing Ireland’s food waste challenge?
Origin Green is Ireland’s pioneering food and drink sustainability programme. The programme is the worlds’ only national food and drink sustainability programme, and enables the industry to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets that respect the environment and serve local communities more effectively. The programme now encompasses over 300 member companies comprising of manufacturers, retailers and food service operators. Origin Green members commit to a mandatory mix of target areas specified by the Origin Green Charters; Manufacturing, and Retail and Foodservice. The mandatory areas, from which targets are set, form the basis of a business’s 5 year sustainability plan.
Addressing the food waste challenge is a key priority for manufacturing members under their waste target. Within their waste target, they will identify if food waste occurs in their operations, and if so will seek to integrate company-wide actions to increase food waste prevention across their operations. At the retail and foodservice sector, food waste is a mandatory target for all members.
The establishment of Origin Green member’s food waste targets are only possible through the support they receive from EPA’s Stop Food Waste Programme and FoodCloud. These two organisations are leading the national charge in achieving SDG 12.3 in Ireland.
EPA’s Stop Food Waste Programme is the national food waste prevention campaign, providing guidance and resources to help consumers reduce food waste. Through a combination of education, training, local champions and national promotion (media and social), the programme aims to raise consumer awareness and empower citizens to change their behaviour to reduce their food waste. The EPA also provides the industry with research that is necessary to prevent food waste and help identify the areas with the greatest potential for food waste reduction. Food waste mapping of commercial sub-sectors was carried out, which found that four sub-sectors - food retail, accommodation, food service (i.e. restaurants) and workplace canteens – account for up to 75% of commercial food waste in Ireland. Origin Green encourages its members to sign the Food Waste Charter and get involved in the EPA’s activities.
FoodCloud, works with retailers and food manufacturing businesses across Ireland, most of which are Origin Green members, with the objective of rescuing good quality food from the Irish Food Industry’s supply chain. This social enterprise connects food producers, manufacturers and businesses who have surplus food with charities and community groups across Ireland, through the use of its retail app and 3 FoodCloud Hubs. According to the FoodCloud Annual Report, an average of 2,200 tonnes of food is rescued annually by their operations, working with and supporting over 800 Irish Community Groups. FoodCloud also runs successful Gleaning Projects, which involves salvaging leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.
Origin Green is committed to working alongside these key partner organisations and the Irish Food, Beverage and Horticulture Sector to continue to build on existing good practice to help Ireland meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.