New White Paper Focuses on Food Loss and Waste in North America

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an intergovernmental organization supporting cooperation among NAFTA partners to address environmental issues of continental concern, has published a new white paper focused on food waste in North America.

 

Image of white paper cover, featuring multiple images of produce at various points along the supply chain as well as icons representing post-harvest food production, food processing, distribution, retail and foodserviceCharacterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America provides statistics about the amount of food lost or wasted collectively, and by country, examines root causes and the environmental and economic impacts. It also summarizes current approaches and opportunities to reduce food loss and waste in the US, Canada, and Mexico. This white paper presents an overview of the accompanying foundational report, and serves as a key resource for policy makers at all levels of government, as well as members of the food industry.

 

Some highlights from the Key Findings section include:

 

“Approximately 168 million tonnes of FLW are generated in North America each year. This estimate encompasses all stages of the food supply chain, including the pre-harvest and consumer stages. Per country, this equates to 13 million tonnes in Canada, 28 million tonnes in Mexico and 126 million tonnes in the United States…When including all stages of the food supply chain, per-capita FLW in Canada is comparable to that in the United States (396 kilograms/person/year and 415 kilograms/person/year, respectively). The per-capita FLW generation in Mexico is much lower—at 249 kilograms/person/year. Nevertheless, when excluding pre-harvest and consumer stages, rates across all three countries are comparable: 110 kilograms/person/year for Canada and the United States, and 129 kilograms/person/year in Mexico.”

 

“Causes of FLW across the food supply chain include:
• overproduction by processors, wholesalers and retailers;
• product damage;
• lack of cold-chain infrastructure (refrigeration during transportation and storage);
• rigid food-grading specifications;
• varying customer demand; and
• market fluctuations.”

 

Among the many listed environmental and economic impacts, is the fact that market value of the food loss and waste in North America per year is US $278 billion.

 

The CEC has also produced an infographic which summarizes the various key findings and suggested approaches to reduce food loss and waste. See http://www.cec.org/sites/default/fwinteractive/index-en.html.

 

Addressing the issues of food loss and waste regionally and nationally will help the global community to make progress toward the following UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

 

 

What can you as an individual do? First, become familiar with the sources of food loss and waste and suggested approaches, as outlined in the CEC white paper and other resources highlighted on this blog in the “food waste” category. Let your legislators, and favorite retailers, restaurants, food service operations, and manufacturers of food products know that you appreciate any positive efforts they take to address food waste, and that you expect improvement aligned with strategies identified by CEC and other organizations focused on this issue. Check out the US EPA suggestions for reducing food waste at home, and further their Call to Action by Stakeholders. Also, check out the Save the Food web site produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council. The Love Food Hate Waste web site produced by UK organization WRAP also provides a wealth of tips and even recipes to help ensure food fills stomachs and not landfills. And finally, as you learn more about food waste issues and strategies for reduction, share what you learn and the stories of the actions you’re taking with others. A problem of this complexity and magnitude requires everyone to contribute to the solution. Your sharing knowledge and inspiration is crucial.

 

About Joy Scrogum

Joy is a Sustainability Specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has worked on developing & maintaining online resources for the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable since 2001. She also currently coordinates the Sustainable Electronics Initiative & works on Zero Waste Illinois projects, including the Illini Gadget Garage and the Green Lunchroom Challenge. Key past projects include coordinating the International Sustainable Electronics Competition, developing & teaching ENG 498 "Sustainable Technology: Environmental & Social Impacts of Innovations," & Greening Schools, which focused on making K-12 facilities & curricula more sustainable.
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