Food Waste Index Report 2024 (By-UNEP)

GS Paper III

News Excerpts: 

According to the latest UN Environment Programme's Food Waste Index Report, the world wasted an estimated 19 per cent of the food produced globally in 2022, or about 1.05 billion metric tons.

More about the news: 

  • The report tracks the progress of countries in their commitment to halve food waste by 2030. 
  • Estimates suggest that over US$1 trillion worth of food is wasted annually, which accounts for more than one-third of all food produced worldwide. This waste utilizes over a quarter of the world's agricultural area. Food waste exacerbates issues of food insecurity and hunger. 
  • In 2022, a significant portion of the global population was food insecure, with approximately 783 million people affected by hunger. 
  • Reducing food waste can potentially increase food availability for those in need. 
  • Food waste contributes to environmental degradation, with an estimated 8–10% of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to it. Environmental impacts are significant across the entire life cycle of food products, with consumer-level waste imposing the highest burden.

Complexity of Food Waste: 

  • What is Food Waste: Food waste is defined as food and associated inedible parts removed from the human food supply chain in retail, food service, and household sectors. This includes both edible and inedible parts.
  • Importance of Considering Inedible Parts: In many cultures, what is considered edible or inedible can vary, and certain parts may be consumed in some regions but discarded in others. Additionally, upcycling of inedible parts back into the human supply chain through processes like animal feed contributes to circular food systems and improves food security. Measuring food waste accurately involves assessing both edible and inedible parts. SDG Indicator 12.3.1(b) allows for the separate reporting of inedible parts where measured.
  • Extent of Edible Food Waste: Limited data exists on the edible fraction of food waste globally, but estimates suggest it could range from 31% to 77% of total food waste. Even at the lower end of this range, the quantity of edible food wasted is significant, amounting to 1.3 meals per person impacted by hunger per day.
  • Challenges in Data Availability: There's a lack of accurate nationwide data on food waste in the retail and food service sectors, particularly outside high-income countries. This data gap inhibits effective measurement and management of food waste in these settings.
  • Measurement and Reporting of SDG Target 12.3: SDG 12.3 includes two indicators: Indicator 12.3.1(a) measures food loss across the supply chain up to but excluding retail, while Indicator 12.3.1(b) measures food waste at the retail and consumer levels. FAO and UNEP serve as custodians for these indicators, respectively. The Food Loss Index focuses on losses for key commodities, while the Food Waste Index measures total food waste, including inedible parts and waste generated in manufacturing processes.

Issue of food waste in India and globally:

  • Food Waste in India: Indian households waste an estimated 78.2 million tonnes of food annually, despite the country having the largest population suffering from hunger. India ranks 111th out of 125 countries on the Global Hunger Index, indicating a serious level of hunger severity. Per capita food waste in India is estimated at 55 kg per year, with rural areas wasting less compared to urban areas. Data on food wastage in India is categorized under 'Medium Confidence', indicating limitations in geographic coverage and sample size.
  • Global Food Waste: Globally, 1.05 billion tonnes of food waste (including inedible parts) were generated in 2022, amounting to 132 kg per capita. Household waste accounts for 60% of total food waste, with food services responsible for 28% and retail for 12%. Despite efforts to address food waste, millions still go hungry every day, and a third of humanity faces food insecurity. Food waste is not confined to 'rich' countries but also prevalent in upper-middle and lower-middle-income countries, with little difference in the amount of wastage. More than a billion meals are thrown away every day worldwide, representing about a fifth of all food produced globally. Household waste accounts for the majority (60%) of food waste, while commercial food systems, including food services and retail, contribute significantly as well. An additional 13% of food is lost in the supply chain between harvest and market, often due to rejection or spoilage of edible food.
  • Environmental Impact: Food waste not only squanders natural resources but also contributes substantially to climate change and biodiversity loss. It accounts for close to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and displaces wildlife due to intensive farming practices. Hotter countries tend to generate more food waste per capita due to higher consumption of fresh foods with substantial inedible parts and inadequate cold chain facilities.
  • Economic Toll: The economic toll of food loss and waste is estimated at roughly $1 trillion, reflecting the substantial costs incurred due to inefficiencies in the food supply chain.

Steps to addressing the global food waste crisis:

  • Educate individuals, businesses, and communities about the importance of reducing food waste and adopting sustainable consumption habits.
  • Invest in research and technology to gather reliable data and identify trends and patterns to inform targeted interventions.
  • Governments should incentivize food waste reduction initiatives, implement food recovery programs, and support sustainable food production and distribution practices.
  • Foster collaboration among governments, businesses, non-profit organizations, and communities to address food waste comprehensively. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can facilitate knowledge sharing, resource mobilization, and collective action to achieve common goals.
  • Empower consumers to make informed choices and reduce food waste at the household level. 
  • Promote meal planning, proper storage techniques, portion control, and creative cooking methods to minimize food waste in households.


The Food Waste Index Report 2024 highlights the urgent need for concerted action to address food waste and its far-reaching consequences. It calls on stakeholders to prioritize this issue, implement effective solutions, and work towards a more sustainable and equitable food system. Efforts to reduce food waste are aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 12, which focuses on sustainable consumption and production patterns. The report underscores the critical role of food waste reduction in achieving this goal and ensuring food security for all.

Key Definitions In the Report:

  • Food Waste Definition: Food waste is defined as food and its associated inedible parts removed from the human food supply chain. It includes both edible parts (intended for human consumption) and inedible parts (not intended for human consumption), such as bones, rinds, and pits/stones.
  • End Destinations for Removed Food: Food removed from the human food supply chain can end up in various destinations, including co/anaerobic digestion, compost/aerobic digestion, land application, controlled combustion, sewer, litter/discards/refuse, or landfill.
  • Food Loss Definition: Food loss refers to all crop and livestock human-edible commodity quantities that completely exit the post-harvest/slaughter production/supply chain. This includes quantities that are discarded, incinerated, or otherwise not utilized further (such as for animal feed or industrial use), up to, but excluding, the retail level. Losses encompass the commodity as a whole, including its non-edible parts, and involve a decrease in edible mass at various stages of the food chain, including production, post-harvest, and processing.
  • Food Waste Index: The Food Waste Index, overseen by UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), tracks the global and national generation of food and inedible parts wasted at the retail and consumer levels (household and food service). Unlike the Food Loss Index, which focuses on specific commodities, the Food Waste Index measures the total fresh mass of food waste. These definitions and indices are crucial for understanding the extent of food waste and loss globally and for implementing strategies to reduce them, thus promoting sustainability in the food supply chain.

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