Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not

In this report we consider key factors contributing to the current unacceptable level of food waste across the world and the wider implications for sustainably supporting projected population growth.

With the global population estimated to reach 9.5 billion by 2075, mankind needs to ensure it has the food resources available to feed all these people. With current practices wasting up to 50% of all food produced, engineers need to act now and promote sustainable ways to reduce waste from the farm to the supermarket and to the consumer.

Engineers, scientists and agriculturalists have the knowledge, tools and systems that will assist in achieving productivity increases. However, pressure will grow on finite resources of land, energy and water. Although increasing yields in hungry countries is an appropriate response to an emerging food crisis, to ensure we can sustainably meet the food needs of over three billion extra people on the planet by 2075, we call for initiatives to be taken to reduce the substantial quantity of food wasted annually around the world.

The potential to provide 60-100% more food by simply eliminating losses, while simultaneously freeing up land, energy and water resources for other uses, is an opportunity that should not be ignored. Factors affecting waste relate to engineered infrastructure, economic activity, vocational training, knowledge transfer, culture and politics.


Key recommendations

  1. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) should work with the international engineering community to ensure governments of developed nations put in place programmes that transfer engineering knowledge, design know-how, and suitable technology to newly developing countries. This will help improve produce handling in the harvest, and immediate post-harvest stages of food production.
  2. Governments of rapidly developing countries should incorporate waste minimisation thinking into the transport infrastructure and storage facilities currently being planned, engineered and built.
  3. Governments in developed nations should devise and implement policy that changes consumer expectations. These should discourage retailers from wasteful practices that lead to the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic characteristics, and losses in the home due to excessive purchasing by consumers.

Related links

Read the press release:
Disturbing levels of food wastage ignite global call for action

Read the Engineering News article:
Half of all food produced ends up as waste, says IMechE

Read the Engineering News article:
Cut waste to feed the starving, says IMechE

Read the Institution News article:
New report: As much as 2 billion tonnes of all food produced ends up as waste

Read the Institution News article:
Food wastage and food security is about more than just food

Read the press release:
Supermarkets still encouraging UK shoppers to buy too much food, survey finds

Read the press release:
Most shoppers would buy ‘ugly’ fruit and veg

Read the press release:
Institution responds to European food waste report

Read Dr Tim Fox’s blog post:
Food wastage: A warm reception for some cool thinking


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