A recent seminar presentation by Nerida Kelton, Executive Director for the Australian Institute of Packaging and Vice President Sustainability & Save Food for World Packaging Organisation highlighted an interesting chart which showed the carbon footprint of different types of food categories when broken down in terms of production, processing and packaging.
Apparently, Meat has the highest total carbon footprint followed by Fish & Seafood and Dairy. Meanwhile, Fruits and Vegetables have the lowest carbon footprint. (see Chart 1.0)
The same pattern follows for food products that go to waste globally adding up to almost 8% of our total greenhouse emissions. Nerida commented that up to 30% of all food produced globally go to waste and these represented 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year or in value terms US$1.6 trillion in losses.
This is an unacceptable development as globally, 793 million people are starving with more than 100 million suffering from severe malnutrition. On top of this problem, the world is also going to have a much higher population of 10 billion by 2050 and require an additional 56% in food calories. These are difficult challenges as the next 30 years, global climate is expected to get warmer, and fertile lands available for farming will also become smaller.
In high income countries like the US and European countries, aesthetic preferences and arbitrary sell-by-dates are major factors that contribute to food waste. Whereas in low-income countries, the lack of infrastructures and knowledge on proper storage and food handling, combined with unfavorable climatic conditions result in faster food spoilage. These have to change now if we want to support a higher population in future.
Food waste is a major global issue that needs to be urgently tackled. Food and beverage manufacturers need to find more efficient and sustainable methods to produce, process and package food products which can result in lesser generation of food waste. On the other hand, the rapid development of plant-based food and dairy alternatives are welcome as these have lesser carbon footprint, a move in the right direction.