Food waste causes four percent of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions

Krautzberger: There is hardly any sector where waste avoidance is so easy

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 /

The amount of food produced globally is enough to feed the world’s population. Yet, over 800 million people suffer from hunger, partly because 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets wasted every year. The environment too suffers from such squandering: “Germany’s food losses alone account for about four percent of the total national greenhouse gas emissions. Globally food loss equals more than three gigatonnes of green house gases - if food loss was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of green house gases after the US and China”, said Mrs Maria Krautzberger, President of Germany’s Environment Agency (the Umweltbundesamt, UBA) at the occasion of a UBA-hosted side event at the EXPO 2015 in Milano, Italy.

Private consumers already do a lot to prevent food waste in their homes. Still, in Germany 81 kilograms of food per head and year are lost (of the 456 kilograms which are consumed at home). “Turning these mountains into molehills again will take some time, but I am confident that change is possible. Buying on a need-only basis, cooking creatively with leftovers or improving one’s food storage expertise are things that more and more consumers are actively embracing”, said Mrs Krautzberger. “There is hardly any sector where waste avoidance is so easy to have”, she added.

A very promising area for food waste prevention lies in out-of-home consumption, namely restaurants, canteens or event caterers. Current research results by the UBA show that across these three sectors nearly one third of the food is discarded. Reasons are manifold – reaching from fairly rough calculations on the number of an event’s participants paired with a lacking incentive to better plan, as the meals have already been paid for.

A step forward could be to bolster support for the ever more popular food banks, of which there are more than 900 in Germany, supporting 1.5 million people in need with food. UBA-President Mrs Krautzberger said: “Food banks collect qualitatively unobjectionable food that could not be sold by retailers. However, they still face some legal uncertainties, e. g. if rotten food items are handed over to a food bank operator by mistake. These obstacles should be removed as far as possible.” She also advocated for a relaxation on the legal standards and the rules in force on the mere appearance and shape of fruit and vegetables.

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 three 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.

Umweltbundesamt Headquarters

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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 food waste  food loss