Water Footprint of Food Wastage
FAO (2013): Food wastage footprint - Impacts on natural resources
Can be accessed here:
Starting on p. 26 of this report: Water Footprint of Food Wastage (both food loss and food waste):
...Globally, the blue water footprint for the agricultural production of total food wastage in 2007 is about 250 km3, which is more than 38 times the blue water footprint of USA households, or 3.6 times the blue water footprint of total USA consumption (using data of Mekonnen & Hoekstra 2011). In terms of volume, it represents almost three times the volume of Lake Geneva, or the annual water discharge of the Volga River (FAO, 2013).
...The national blue water footprint accounts for the consumption of agricultural products indicate that the global water footprint of food wastage is higher than that of any country, whether a temperate country with relatively large water use or a large country, such as India or China (FAO, 2013).
Food loss refers to a decrease in mass (dry matter) or nutritional value (quality) of food that was originally intended for human consumption. These losses are mainly caused by inefficiencies in the food supply chains, such as poor infrastructure and logistics, lack of technology, insufficient skills, knowledge and management capacity of supply chain actors, and lack of access to markets. In addition, natural disasters play a role.
Food waste refers to food appropriate for human consumption being discarded, whether or not after it is kept beyond its expiry date or left to spoil. Often this is because food has spoiled but it can be for other reasons such as oversupply due to markets, or individual consumer shopping/eating habits.
Food wastage refers to any food lost by deterioration or waste. Thus, the term "wastage" encompasses both food loss and food waste.
Short video that summarizes the FAO report:
Food wastage: Key facts and figures (FAO, 2013)
- The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of "primary product equivalents." Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes.
- Food wastage's carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year.
- The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva.
- Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land - 28 percent of the world's agricultural area - is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.
- Agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- A low percentage of all food wastage is composted: much of it ends up in landfills, and represents a large part of municipal solid waste. Methane emissions from landfills represents one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector.
- Home composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household per year from local collection authorities.
- Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher.
- The direct economic consequences of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually.
FAO 2013. Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, FAO, Rome, 63 pp.
Mekonnen, M.M. & Hoekstra, A.Y. 2011. National Water Footprint Accounts: the Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Production and Consumption. Volume 1: Main Report, Value of Water Research Report Series No. 50. The Netherlands, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.