State of Food Waste in the World

By | 2017-08-22

Volume, cost, wastage: food waste is a major issue in the world. Every day, tons of edible food are thrown away, while many people live in hungry. Food waste causes a large unnecessary use of natural resources and environmental pollution. Throughout the world, several laws, regulations, programs, information campaigns and government projects are operational to reduce food waste. If waste cannot always be reused, it can at least be recovered through composting or biomethanisation.

Food Waste in the World

According to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), organic waste sent to landfills decomposes and produces 18% of U.S. methane gas emissions. About one-third of the world’s food – nearly 1.3 billion tons – is lost or wasted each year, with fruits and vegetables accounting for the highest amount, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. For all industrialized nations, food waste accounts for roughly $680 billion annually.

About 47% of food is wasted at home, with the other 53% of waste occurring through the food chain, what is referred to as the “value food chain.”

Food Waste in Value Food Chain

Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.

Per capita food losses and waste, at consumption and pre-consumption stages,
in different regions

Per capita food losses and food waste, at consumption and pre-consumptions stages,  in different regions

Other key facts of food loss and waste you should know:

  • The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people.
  • The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
  • The food currently lost in Africa could feed 300 million people.
  • Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.

These facts shock, action is necessary.

Organic Waste Management in the World

As food waste has social, environmental and economic impacts, it is the role of government to tackle this issue. Several laws, regulations as well as programs, information campaigns, support of organisms struggling against the scourge and partnerships with the other actors of the food chain, are forcing cities and industries to better manage their organic waste.

In Québec

Québec has some very interesting initiatives, but the government is far behind in efforts to reduce food losses. See our article Quebec Province is Leading the Way in organic Waste Management.

Since the establishment of the Law on Quality of the Environment (LQE) in 1972, Québec has gone through three 3 waste management policies, two action plans on climate change and several measures to achieve initially an ultimate goal of zero landfilling or incineration of organic waste by 2020.

In Montréal, the 2015-2020 Metropolitan residual materials management plan, which entered into force on January 28, 2017, has as main objective to recycle 60 % of residual organic matter by 2025. On the other hand, Montréal plans to host, by 2020, a biomethanisation centre and a household waste processing pilot centre, two of five organic materials processing centres (CTMO).

In France

In France, an important law on the fight against food waste was adopted in Parliament at the beginning of 2016. The law requires large-scale distribution to distribute the unsold food that it threw before. Thanks to this, more than 10 million meals have been given to the most deprived. More than 5000 new associations that have the right to distribute food unsold at the closing of stores were created.

In 2011, the European Union set a target of reducing food waste of 50% by 2025. Denmark has reduced food waste by 25% between 2010 and 2015, and the United Kingdom has seen a decrease of 21%. France, including Paris, is targeting 50% by 2025, Catalonia 50% by 2020, Belgium (Flanders, including Brussels) 30% by 2025 and Switzerland 30% by 2020.

In Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom, many awareness campaigns took place. Since 2012, France has been offering accompaniments at home to help families manage their food. In the United Kingdom, the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) organism is a very inspiring example, like Green Cook, a project involving several Western European countries.


In New Jersey, a new law requires the state to develop a plan over the next year to reduce its food waste by half by 2030.

At least five states either ban organic waste from landfills or mandate food waste recycling to some degree, according to the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. California mandates organic food waste recycling and requires businesses to cap the amount of food they send to the landfill each year. Connecticut and Rhode Island also require many businesses to cap the amount of food thrown out. Massachusetts and Vermont have a weight limit on food waste both individuals and businesses can throw away. “If New Jersey’s food waste reduction program is successful, it may pave the way for other states to follow,” says Goldstein, New York’s Director of Environment.

In addition, major private initiatives are taking place in the United States, but also in Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Belgium, mainly in the form of partnerships between the various players in the food chain.

Turning Food Waste into Energy

Today, waste is a renewable energy source. If food waste cannot always be reused, it can at least be recovered by composting or biomethanisation to heat, power, or converted into fuel.

To achieve the Grenelle Environment Forum objective of 23% of energy from renewable sources in France by 2020, several projects in France and around the world use biomass to heat and power plants, buildings and even entire cities.

The 10 benefits of separate food waste collection for anaerobic digestion

Separate food waste collection with disposal to anaerobic digestion has many benefits. Do you know how much value comes from separating food waste at source? Watch the video published by Biogas Channel to find it out!

Green startups seeking value out of food waste

Startups are launching in all kinds of green technologies, including in the area of renewable energy. BiogasWorld is one of these startups, dedicated to catalyzing it by connecting the biogas project developers with the suppliers of products and services of this industry in order to facilitate and accelerate commercial trade between them. BiogasWorld aims to become the unique commercial, technical and information online platform for all that relates to biogas, from residual waste collection to the valuation of biogas and digestate.

In one of our previous articles, we presented three Green Startups, the American companies Food Cowboy, CropMobster and Froodly application, aiming to reduce food waste and generate value out it, while proposing a sustainable solution to this global issue. Among the most recent startups, there is Moulinot Compost & Biogas in France, which recovers the food remains of many restaurants in the City of Light, Paris. The Flashfood app allows grocery stores and restaurants to sell high-quality, surplus food at steep discounts to savvy shoppers. Another company from Israel, HomeBiogas, has developed an anaerobic digester adapted to the consumption of a family that can turn household food waste into biogas and fertilizer. For 1 kg of food waste, the HomeBiogas system generates 0.2 cubic meter of biogas, which is enough to cook with gas for one hour.

USA: biogas from the 60 million tonnes of food waste

The EPA and the USDA have launched a project to halve by 2030 the food waste that end up in landfills. At the same time, Universities in the Sacramento area of California already use this waste to produce bio-fuel. Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are also moving in this direction. Los Angeles and New York are also producing excellent examples of co-digestion with waste water. Watch the interview with Chris Voell (USEPA Climate Change Division).

Thanks to “Reforming the Energy Vision”, New York State is reviewing the regulatory framework of the utilities, to provide better prices to energy produced from renewable sources. The biggest opportunities come from the wastewater sector, where outdated facilities need modernization to increase efficiency, and in the emerging field of food waste. Let’s watch the video that interviews Wayne Davis, New York Biogas Study Group Co-Founder.