Tag Archives: food waste

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Where on Earth will the waste go?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE As the world’s population continues to grow, so too the collective rubbish dump of human waste increases – and according to a recent report, it might not be until sometime next century that it begins to recede. LONDON, 2 November – Human waste production has multiplied tenfold in the last century. Rubbish – plastic bags, pizza boxes, empty beer cans, tinfoil, bubble wrap, old mattresses, rusty machinery, broken bottles, spent batteries, stale sandwiches, wilting salads and abandoned newsprint – is being generated faster than any other environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases. And the problem will go on getting bigger until some time in the next century. Daniel Hoornweg of the University of Ontario and Chris Kennedy of the University of Toronto in Canada and Perinaz Bhada-Tata of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates argue in Nature that the combination of urban growth and material affluence is creating a throwaway problem that won’t go away. The average person in the US throws away his (or her) own body weight in rubbish every month. The detritus linked to modern living has not only grown tenfold in a century; by 2025 it will double again. Solid waste disposal has become one of any modern city’s biggest costs. Landfill sites near Shanghai, in Rio de Janeiro, and in Mexico City typically receive 10,000 tonnes of waste a day.  The world now has more than 2,000 waste incinerators, some able to burn 5,000 tonnes a day, creating attendant problems of ash and air-polluting fumes. Landfill waste is of course also a notorious source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – but the authors are primarily concerned with the simple problems posed by the increasing volume of affluent society’s rejected stuff. It’s a city thing, they say. Country dwellers don’t buy so much packaged food, don’t have factories and don’t throw so much food away. City dwellers on average generate twice as much waste; the more affluent urbanites throw away four times as much. The three researchers – an expert in energy systems, a civil engineer and an urban waste consultant – say that in 1900 there were 220 million people in the cities. That was 13% of the planet’s population, and these townsfolk produced 300,000 tonnes of discarded stuff every day. By 2000, there were 2.9 billion people in cities – 49% of the world’s population – creating more than three million tonnes of solid waste per day. By 2025, it will be twice that = enough to fill a line of rubbish trucks 5,000 kilometres long every day.

International idiosyncrasies

Some countries are more profligate than others. Japan’s citizens produce about one third less, per person, than US citizens, even though the gross domestic product per capita is about the same. China’s solid waste generation is expected to go from 520,550 tonnes per day to 1.4 million by 2025. “As a country becomes richer, the composition of its waste changes,” the authors say. “With more money comes more packaging, imports, electronic waste and broken toys and appliances. The wealth of a country can readily be measured, for example, by how many mobile phones it discards.” Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata are the authors of a 2012 World Bank report in which they projected a world dustbin collection of 6 million tonnes a day by 2025. They calculate that under a business-as-usual scenario waste will grow with population and affluence as the century wears on, with increasing growth in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and by 2100 it will exceed 11 million tonnes a day and peak sometime in the next century. But this scenario is not inevitable. “With lower populations, denser, more resource-efficient cities and less consumption (along with higher affluence) the peak could come forward to 2075 and reduce in intensity by more than 25%,” they say. This would save around 2.6 million tonnes per day. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE As the world’s population continues to grow, so too the collective rubbish dump of human waste increases – and according to a recent report, it might not be until sometime next century that it begins to recede. LONDON, 2 November – Human waste production has multiplied tenfold in the last century. Rubbish – plastic bags, pizza boxes, empty beer cans, tinfoil, bubble wrap, old mattresses, rusty machinery, broken bottles, spent batteries, stale sandwiches, wilting salads and abandoned newsprint – is being generated faster than any other environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases. And the problem will go on getting bigger until some time in the next century. Daniel Hoornweg of the University of Ontario and Chris Kennedy of the University of Toronto in Canada and Perinaz Bhada-Tata of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates argue in Nature that the combination of urban growth and material affluence is creating a throwaway problem that won’t go away. The average person in the US throws away his (or her) own body weight in rubbish every month. The detritus linked to modern living has not only grown tenfold in a century; by 2025 it will double again. Solid waste disposal has become one of any modern city’s biggest costs. Landfill sites near Shanghai, in Rio de Janeiro, and in Mexico City typically receive 10,000 tonnes of waste a day.  The world now has more than 2,000 waste incinerators, some able to burn 5,000 tonnes a day, creating attendant problems of ash and air-polluting fumes. Landfill waste is of course also a notorious source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – but the authors are primarily concerned with the simple problems posed by the increasing volume of affluent society’s rejected stuff. It’s a city thing, they say. Country dwellers don’t buy so much packaged food, don’t have factories and don’t throw so much food away. City dwellers on average generate twice as much waste; the more affluent urbanites throw away four times as much. The three researchers – an expert in energy systems, a civil engineer and an urban waste consultant – say that in 1900 there were 220 million people in the cities. That was 13% of the planet’s population, and these townsfolk produced 300,000 tonnes of discarded stuff every day. By 2000, there were 2.9 billion people in cities – 49% of the world’s population – creating more than three million tonnes of solid waste per day. By 2025, it will be twice that = enough to fill a line of rubbish trucks 5,000 kilometres long every day.

International idiosyncrasies

Some countries are more profligate than others. Japan’s citizens produce about one third less, per person, than US citizens, even though the gross domestic product per capita is about the same. China’s solid waste generation is expected to go from 520,550 tonnes per day to 1.4 million by 2025. “As a country becomes richer, the composition of its waste changes,” the authors say. “With more money comes more packaging, imports, electronic waste and broken toys and appliances. The wealth of a country can readily be measured, for example, by how many mobile phones it discards.” Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata are the authors of a 2012 World Bank report in which they projected a world dustbin collection of 6 million tonnes a day by 2025. They calculate that under a business-as-usual scenario waste will grow with population and affluence as the century wears on, with increasing growth in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and by 2100 it will exceed 11 million tonnes a day and peak sometime in the next century. But this scenario is not inevitable. “With lower populations, denser, more resource-efficient cities and less consumption (along with higher affluence) the peak could come forward to 2075 and reduce in intensity by more than 25%,” they say. This would save around 2.6 million tonnes per day. – Climate News Network

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Food waste worsens GHG emissions – FAO

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. LONDON, 13 September – The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood. But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity. It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective. The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. “Globally, the blue water footprint (i.e., the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) of food wastage is about 250 cubic kilometres, which is equivalent to the annual water discharge of the Volga river [in Russia], or three times the volume of [Switzerland’s] Lake Geneva. “Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.” “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva. The FAO has also published a comprehensive tool-kit as a companion to the study; it contains recommendations on how to reduce food loss and waste along the food chain, and details projects around the world that are seeking to tackle the problem. The FAO and the UN Environment Programme are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, which was launched earlier this year and which aims to help to co-ordinate worldwide efforts to cut wastage. The study says 54% of global food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during the production stages, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle and high-income regions. The report says that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. Meat production has a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and in Latin America, which together account for 80% of all meat wastage. Apart from Latin America, it is high-income regions which are responsible for about 67% of all wasted meat. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised parts of Asia and Europe mean a large carbon footprint for the sector. Wastage of cereals is a significant problem in Asia, affecting carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Rice is a particular problem: paddy fields account for around 20% of human-related emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and a significant amount of rice is wasted. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is also a large producer of methane, although there is another use to be made of it which can offer worthwhile returns. A British company is among those who are profiting by exploiting them. – Climate News Network

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. LONDON, 13 September – The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood. But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity. It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective. The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. “Globally, the blue water footprint (i.e., the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) of food wastage is about 250 cubic kilometres, which is equivalent to the annual water discharge of the Volga river [in Russia], or three times the volume of [Switzerland’s] Lake Geneva. “Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.” “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva. The FAO has also published a comprehensive tool-kit as a companion to the study; it contains recommendations on how to reduce food loss and waste along the food chain, and details projects around the world that are seeking to tackle the problem. The FAO and the UN Environment Programme are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, which was launched earlier this year and which aims to help to co-ordinate worldwide efforts to cut wastage. The study says 54% of global food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during the production stages, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle and high-income regions. The report says that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. Meat production has a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and in Latin America, which together account for 80% of all meat wastage. Apart from Latin America, it is high-income regions which are responsible for about 67% of all wasted meat. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised parts of Asia and Europe mean a large carbon footprint for the sector. Wastage of cereals is a significant problem in Asia, affecting carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Rice is a particular problem: paddy fields account for around 20% of human-related emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and a significant amount of rice is wasted. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is also a large producer of methane, although there is another use to be made of it which can offer worthwhile returns. A British company is among those who are profiting by exploiting them. – Climate News Network