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The Issue

The High Cost of Food Waste

More than a third of food produced and distributed in Canada never gets eaten, resulting in significant environmental, economic and social consequences. This inefficient use of resources forces local governments to pay for added avoidable waste disposal, generates greenhouse gases at all stages of the production and distribution chain, and costs the Canadian economy up to $100 billion annually.

 

Facts about Food Waste

1/2 wasted!

 

Globally about half of all food produced is not eaten. This is not only a waste of food but also of the resources associated with its production, processing and distribution.

Cost: $49 billion

 

In Canada, $49 billion worth of food is sent to landfill or is composted each year. If the value of inputs required to grow this food were included, such as water, power, labour, etc., the dollar figure would rise to over $100 billion.

Time to mobilize

 

Canada’s leading food retailers announced in 2019 a voluntary commitment to measure, monitor, and act on reducing FLW to 50% by 2025. The U.S. government has committed to reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 and in 2015 Congress began considering a wide-ranging Food Recovery Act. In 2016, France banned the disposal of edible food by major retailers and Italy introduced similar legislation.



Food Loss

What is Food Loss and Waste?

Food waste is the loss of edible food at the point of retail or consumer use. Food loss is food that is lost in the stages between production and distribution.

Contributing Causes

In a large country such as Canada, food is transported over long distances. The time-limited biological reality of food, particularly fresh and unpackaged food, can lead to significant loss and waste. Limited or lack of technology, equipment, and packaging - for storage, extended shelf-life, or appropriate processing - are also contributing factors. Risk perception and risk avoidance – by business and consumers – can mean significant waste of food that is otherwise edible and nutritious. Procurement, processing practices, and consumer behaviour, including over-purchasing and inefficient food storage, also contribute to food waste.

Percentage of unplanned (avoidable) and potentially edible food loss & waste (FLW)


​Prioritizing Prevention

All levels of government, businesses, and communities need to collaborate to prevent and reduce food loss and waste. It has become globally accepted that the order of priority begins with prevention and reduction, then recovery, and finally composting before disposing.




The World

Aligning with Global Efforts

Action on FLW around the world continues to rise. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 seeks to reduce per capita global food waste by half at the retail and consumer levels by 2030. International organizations - WRAP to the European Union’s REFRESH, Champions 12.3, and the Consumers Good Forum - are bringing together diverse stakeholders and interests to prevent/reduce FLW in supply chains.

National governments are leading policy changes. France forbids grocery stores, by law, from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Italy, Spain and Denmark support market innovations and have established fiscal incentives to drive down waste. The FAO hosts initiatives in Asia-Pacific under its Save Food program.

Canada is beginning to also do its part. Canadian food industry leaders have begun measuring and monitoring their own food waste. Many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as The Spent Goods Company, are exploring how to process or distribute differently, lessening waste and increasing revenues. Start-ups, young enterprises, and not-for-profits – think Food Mesh, Second Harvest, Food Banks Canada - are expanding their recovery and redistribution efforts, supporting Canadian communities while reducing waste. Canadian governments – from local to federal – are using tactics such as the Love Food Hate Waste Canada campaign to engage consumers.

See how the National Zero Waste Council continues to provide an umbrella space where emerging Canadian action is guided and highlighted.