"Eating out-of-home" shows up poor environmental performance

Food waste causes considerable environmental damage

a basket with a mouldet bread roll, two rotten apples and a dried out lemonClick to enlarge
Stored badly or too long, food turns to food waste
Source: CCat82 / Fotolia.com

Food waste from the restaurant business, central kitchens and event caterers have the greatest impact on the environment. Nearly half of the food in these sectors is discarded prematurely. Vital resources such as cropland and water are wasted unnecessarily, producing greenhouse gas emissions which could be prevented. These are the preliminary conclusions of a research project by the Federal Environment Agency.
UBA's President Maria Krautzberger said, "The dimensions of food waste are shocking, but there is hardly another sector in which waste avoidance is so easy to practice. Five per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany originate from food losses. We can do a lot to minimise these losses and do something good for the climate and environment." The Federal Environment Agency recommends a relaxation on the legal standards and the rules in force on the appearance and shape of fruit and vegetables. Food waste refers to food which, although edible, has been discarded for a number of different reasons.

The biggest source of most food waste at present is agriculture: the planting and harvesting of fruit, vegetables and grains. Food consumption ranks second, in particular the waste from restaurants, employee canteens and catering events. Nearly half the food prepared for the away-from-home sector is disposed of prematurely. In numbers that means an annual 53.3 kilos of food per person in restaurants, canteen kitchens and at events, of which 23.6 kilos (44%) is thrown away before necessary. Effective measures to combat food waste should therefore begin in this sector. In the private household, "eating at home" sector, the quantity food per person bought every year is about 430 kilos, of which 17%, or 82 kilos, is discarded prematurely.

Foodstuffs come with considerable ecological baggage. The amount of food bought per person and year in Germany consumes the land area of half a football field, requires an amount of water that could fill 84 full bathtubs, and emits 3 tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is the same amount of CO2 emissions produced on a roundtrip flight from Frankfurt to New York. When projected onto the 80 million people in Germany and the 505 million in the EU, these factors have an immense environmental impact.

Maria Krautzberger said, "The production of all our food requires cropland and water resources, both of which are precious and scarce resources worldwide. Food waste must be avoided as is it essential to the preservation of our livelihood. Less food waste also means less use of fertilisers and plant protection products in conventional agriculture."

The Federal Environment Agency believes that the voluntary agreements to reduce food waste between retailers and the food service industry such as envisioned in the Federal Government Waste Prevention Programme should be implemented as soon as possible. Legal standards and quality criteria concerning appearance and shape, and liability and hygiene regulations which lead to unnecessary food waste, must be reviewed with a view to their restriction or deletion. Waste prevention of foods such as meat and dairy would have a particularly great impact as these food products require 14 times the amount of land area per kilo produced than the area needed for plant-based products.

Umweltbundesamt Headquarters

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Printer-friendly version
 food waste