The carbon footprint of worldwide food losses and food waste amounts to the equivalent of 3.3 giga tons of CO2 emissions.
Compared to the CO² emissions of individual countries this volume ranks third among the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters after China and the USA. What this means in concrete terms is that the greenhouse gas associated with the production, processing, transport and storage of all non-consumed food corresponds to roughly half of what both China and the USA emit into the atmosphere each year. For Germany this figure stands at approximately one giga ton, i.e. less than one third of all global emissions caused by food loss and waste. 3.3 giga tons – or 3.3 billion tons in other words – are an enormous amount. By comparison: the greenhouse gas emissions associated with road traffic in all of the USA totalled 1.5 giga tons in 2010.
Broken down into food categories, cereals (at 34%) account for the biggest share in greenhouse gas emissions caused by food loss and waste, followed by meat and vegetables at 21% each. At only 5% the percentage of meat in the total amount of food loss is far lower than that of cereals (25%) and vegetables (below 25%). This means meat has a clearly bigger carbon-footprint because it causes in excess of one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. In Germany the situation is quite similar. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, meat accounts for almost half the carbon footprint in the food value chain – while only accounting for about 10% of total food waste volume.
The main reasons for meat’s very large carbon footprint lie in the high levels of energy and resources needed to grow feed, in the machinery used for raising and transporting livestock, in refrigeration – and last but not least in the substantial CO2-emissions of ruminants. This is also why cattle raising is considered particularly greenhouse-gas intensive.
Losses and carbon footprints also vary across the various stages in the value chain. The highest losses occur in production whereas carbon footprint is at its largest in the consumption stage – also due to the energy required for storage and cooking in private households, restaurants, canteens and the like.
Greenhouse gas emitted in food manufacturing, transport and storage puts a burden on the environment. But if this food then even perishes or is disposed of, these pollutants have been emitted to the atmosphere without any benefit. Minimising waste and loss is therefore indispensable for these reasons alone.
Add to this the fact that one in eight human beings on earth suffer from hunger while one third of all produced foodstuffs are not consumed.
The whole set of problems associated with food loss and waste will be on the agenda of the second international SAVE FOOD Congress in Düsseldorf from 7 to 8 May. As the No. 1 trade fair for the packaging sector and related process industries, interpack provides an ideal platform for bringing together industry experts from companies and associations with policy-makers and key figures in society.