Reducing Food Waste

Decarbonization Avenue : Reducing Food Waste

Over a billion tons of edible food are wasted every year. While that’s a shocking number when we consider that millions go hungry worldwide, such wastage also implies significant amounts of CO2 emissions, as each ton of food that is wasted carries with it a significant carbon footprint.

Some estimates suggest that consumers in rich developed countries throw out almost as much food every year as the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa! A good percentage of the food that’s thrown away goes to the landfill. In addition to the CO2 emissions during its production, the wasted food ending up in landfills releases significant amounts of methane, a gas about 25 times as potent as a greenhouse gas as CO2. 

Even in cities in developed countries, significant portions of the population live in poverty and hunger. While redistributing the wasted food in these regions looks like a simple idea, it is logistically quite challenging. A parallel challenge is the perishable nature of food,  which implies that it needs to be used within a short period of time. A host of solutions - many of them with an IT/digital component - have started enabling such a distribution in urban regions.

Another way to reduce food waste is to ensure that there is minimal wastage in the first place. Here again, solution providers are using simple approaches, as well as sophisticated big data and AI to assist medium and large stakeholders (large restaurants, supermarkets etc) to dramatically cut down food waste.

While food waste is a reality all over the world, the amount of food waste from the developed economies is perhaps an order of magnitude higher than that from developing and underdeveloped economies which have more sustainable ways of living - owing to cultural practices as well as economic compulsions.

For the 2020-2030 period, innovations for food waste reduction will come from food sharing apps, solutions to protect perishable foods, use of artificial intelligence to reduce excess food production at residential and commercial kitchens, and increasing use of “imperfect” (ugly looking) fruits, vegetables and other food items.

Decarbonization potential

Global food loss and waste generate 4.4 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, or about 8% of total GHG emissions. These emissions include emissions from both post harvest food crop waste before it reaches the market shelves, and from waste of processed food on the shelves.

Worldwide, about 35% of all food crops produced are wasted. While in developing and underdeveloped countries, a large part of this wastage happens in the post harvest segment before the food reaches the shelves, in the developed countries, a dominant portion of the food waste is from foods on the shelves of supermarkets or homes.

Industries impacted

  • Agriculture & farming
  • Airlines & aviation
  • Food & beverages
  • Packaging & plastics
  • Trading & distribution
  • Waste management

Latest News on Reducing Food Waste

Themes & Topics

  • Types of food waste

    • Fruits & vegetables

    • Meat, fish, poultry & bacon

    • Dairy & beverages

    • Other foods

  • Waste minimization approaches

    • Design & technical

    • Behavioural

    • Through use of IT & digital tools

    • Business intelligence

  • Solutions

    • Distributing food waste to those in need

    • Recycling food waste

    • Smart packaging for food waste management

    • Composting of food waste

    • Logistics & storage for food waste minimization

    • Community efforts

  • Collaborations

    • Between commercial establishments and government

    • Between commercial establishments and NGOs









  • Locations

    • Residences

    • Hotels & restaurants

    • Events, parties, festivals & occasions

    • Offices & institutions

    • Factories & industries

    • Retail

    • Post harvest food waste on farms

    • Food waste during distribution

  • Awareness/capacity building

  • Policies & mandates

  • Use of IT & digital solutions

  • Supporting organizations

  • Geographical trends

    • North America

    • South America

    • Asia

    • Europe

    • Middle East & Africa

    • Australia










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