FAO Produces a Toolkit to Reduce Carbon Footprint of Food Waste

22 November 2013. The food industry has a large carbon footprint that can be attributed to production and transport. Therefore, reducing food waste can have an important impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In order to provide education and showcase good practices on how to reduce the waste and thus the carbon footprint of our food system, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), as part of its Food Wastage Footprint project, has produced a comprehensive toolkit entitled Toolkit – Reducing the Food Wastage Footprint.

To tackle the problem, the toolkit details three general levels where action is needed:

  • High priority should be given to reducing food wastage in the first place. Beyond improving losses of crops on farms due to poor practices, doing more to better balance production with demand would mean not using natural resources to produce unneeded food in the first place.
  • In the event of a food surplus, re-use within the human food chain - finding secondary markets or donating extra food to feed vulnerable members of society - represents the best option. If the food is not fit for human consumption, the next best option is to divert it for livestock feed, conserving resources that would otherwise be used to produce commercial feedstuff.
  • Where re-use is not possible, recycling and recovery should be pursued: by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, compositing, and incineration with energy recovery allow energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste, representing a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is a large producer of methane, a particularly harmful GHG.

In each of its sections, the toolkit presents a clear link between food waste and GHG emissions as well as environmental impact. It then provides guidelines to reduce the carbon footprint of the food systems, presenting examples of actions from all over the world as well as presenting lessons learned from former experiences.

The toolkit can be accessed here. More information on the FAO's Food Wastage Footprint project can be found at the following address: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/196220/icode/.