The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) released a comprehensive report on the state of food loss and waste in Canada, Mexico and the United States. It is developed through the CEC’s North American Initiative on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery. Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America documents adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts of food loss and waste. As well as actions that the industrial, commercial, institutional, government and nongovernmental sectors can implement. All to mitigate these impacts.

Food Loss and Waste in North America

The report estimates that 168 million tonnes of food are wasted in North America each year, with Americans wasting 415 kilograms (915 pounds) per capita, Canadians 396 kilograms (873 pounds) per capita, and Mexicans 249 kilograms (549 pounds) per capita. With notable differences between the three countries, the report finds that the largest share of food loss and waste in North America. That’s where 67 million tonnes/year, occurs at the consumer level. There are 52 million tonnes wasted. Combined in the industrial, commercial, and institutional levels. That’s 49 million tonnes at the pre-harvest level. These losses represent therefore a huge waste of social, economic and natural resources.  As well as have significant environmental impacts.

So the report goes beyond highlighting the large amount of food loss and waste. All in the North American food supply chain. It also provides a closer examination of the primary causes and potential solutions to reduce the problem. It’s focusing on overproduction. In addition to product damage too. I mean lack of standardized date labeling practices. Finally a lack of cold-chain infrastructure. As well as rigid food-grading specifications and varying customer demand and market fluctuations.

So a key finding is that distributors, retailers, food-rescue organizations, and food service providers have a critical role to play in realizing solutions.
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Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts of Food Loss and Waste

The report also estimates that the annual environmental and socio-economic impacts of food loss and waste. All across North America are stark. They also include:

  1. 193 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result from the life-cycle of wasted food. I mean from production to disposal. For it’s  equal to the GHG emissions generated by 41 million cars driven continuously for a year.

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  1. 17.6 billion cubic meters of water wasted
  2. 22.1 million hectares or almost 55 million acres of cropland production wasted

  3. 38.6 million cubic meters of landfill space used

  4. US$278 billion in market value of annual food production lost

Solutions

The report also outlines several key areas of opportunity. Thereby to address food loss and waste in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors:
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Source reduction

a. Reducing food waste at the source. That’s through inventory management and offering reduced portion sizes in foodservice. That’ll reduce plate waste. Also will be increasing the marketability of produce by accepting and integrating second-grade produce into retail settings (typically at a discount). In addition, storage and transportation improvements to maintain quality. Finally and collaboration between stakeholders to standardize date labels. Again that’s so they are clear and consistent to reduce confusion. This is at all stages of the food supply chain

b. Rescue for human consumption

c. Encourage donation of safe and nutritious food that would otherwise be wasted. I mean all through financial incentives for food donation. As well as liability protection for food donors. Also online food rescue platforms and expanded funding to improve infrastructure. Finally and donation

d. tracking in food rescue and recovery systems

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food loss and waste, the report lists source reduction, food rescue and recovery as having the greatest potentials for savings on greenhouse gas emissions and as preferable to recycling. Disposal is identified as the least preferable approach.

Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America was released as a complement to a recently announced CEC report. It’s called Characterization and Management of Organic Waste in North America.  For it is part of its two-year project, the North American Initiative on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery. The project examines the impacts of food loss and waste on food security. As well as the economy and the environment by calculating its impacts. As well as providing tools and education to prevent and reduce those impacts.

Finally and for more information. Also, to read the full white paper and foundational report, please visit www3.cec.org/fw.

Source: CEC, www.cec.org, Montreal, 27 March 2018