As of 4th March (Thursday), a study, entitled “Food Waste Index Report 2021” by the UN revealed that a Bangladeshi wastes 65kg of food each year on an average, which is much higher than what a person wastes in such rich countries as Russia (33kg), the United States of America (59kg) and Ireland (55kg).
Food waste is regarded as a key problem in rich countries. Bangladesh also added its name into the category now.
Every year 10.62 million tonnes of food are wasted by households in Bangladesh, according to the report.
On the other hand, the amount of food wasted by a person in a home per year is 61kg in New Zealand, 50kg in the Netherlands, 50kg in Belgium, and 39kg in Austria.
The UN study included the most comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis and modelling ever done, and offered a methodology for countries to accurately measure loss.
Meanwhile, it was produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WRAP, a UK-based non-government organisation.
The UN report estimates 17 per cent of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million tonnes (1.03 billion tonnes) of food were wasted in 2019 in homes, institutions, retail outlets and restaurants worldwide.
In fact, homes are responsible for most of the food waste as 61 per cent of total food waste was generated from households, while 26 per cent was from food services and 13 per cent from retails.
The food discarded per capita in homes was 74kg on average across the world, where households in lower middle-income countries wasted 91kg, upper middle-income countries wasted 76kg and high-income countries wasted 79kg per person each year.
But the study mentioned that household per capita food waste generation is found to be broadly similar across country income groups, suggesting that action on food waste is equally relevant in high, upper-middle and lower-middle income countries.
Roe of Ohio State noted that food sometimes is wasted in poor countries without reliable home refrigeration.
In richer countries, people might eat out more, meaning food waste is simply shifted from the home to restaurants.
Roe said cultural norms and policies also could contribute to waste at home – such as massive packaging, ‘buy one, get one free’ deals, or lack of composting programmes.
In the meantime, among the South Asian households, the Indian waste 50kg of food per person per year, which is the least among South Asian countries, followed by Bangladesh.
In the Maldives, 71kg of food is wasted per person each year at the household level.
Afghan households waste 82kg of food per person per year, which is the highest in the region followed by 79kg in Nepal and Bhutan, 76kg in Sri Lanka, and 74kg in Pakistan.
It is a matter of concern that when food is wasted, all the resources associated with its production – water, land, energy, labour and capital; are also wasted, along with the disposal of waste in landfills causes greenhouse gas emissions.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, “If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste.”
“Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession,” added Andersen.
Experts say improved waste tracking is key to finding ways to ease the problem, such as programmes to divert inedible scraps to use as animal feed or fertiliser.
The Food Waste Index considers total food waste, meaning both the edible and inedible share of food items.
The UNEP will inaugurate regional working groups to aid countries’ capacities to measure and record food waste in time for the next round of SDG 12.3 reporting in late 2022. It will also support these countries as they develop national baselines to track progress towards the 2030 goal, and design strategies to prevent food waste.
Dr Md Saidur Rahman, professor at the Department of Agriculture Economics of Bangladesh Agriculture University, Mymensingh, said food wastage is basically happening because of a lack of awareness among people irrespective of rich and poor.
Food-laden trucks should get priority on roads. A lesson should be incorporated into textbooks to raise awareness about food wastage right from childhood, he added.
“Food is mainly wasted at marriage functions or restaurants. We also see post-harvest wastages of fresh vegetables and fruits during transportation and storage,” he also said.