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A sustainable solution: Supporting organisations to monitor and reduce food waste

The statistics on food waste continue to cause alarm. One third of the world’s food production is lost or wasted according to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization and in the UK, WRAP says households and businesses waste around 9.5 million tonnes of food every year. This is particularly hard to stomach given that current estimates say nearly 8.9% of the world’s population lives in hunger.

Food waste has a sustainability impact too. If food is wasted, all of the natural resources used to grow, process, package, transport and market the produce are lost. The food industry generates around 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, emitting around 3.3 GT yearly. If it were a country, it would be the third largest emitting nation in the world.

It is no surprise, therefore, that regulators are increasingly turning their attention to the problem. Wasting less food and supporting local farmers is the second of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and reducing food waste is central to the EU's Farm to Fork strategy.

Defining food waste

The EU defines food waste as “food and inedible parts of food removed from the food supply chain that are to be disposed of or used for nutrient recovery or energy generation”. It does not include unavoidable losses from, for example, weather-damaged crops, nor does it include inedible elements such as bones or food packaging and wrapping.   

As a result, food waste is largely avoidable. Consumers are often highlighted for their contribution to food wastage, throwing food away when expiry dates pass or it is left uneaten on plates due to portion sizes. However, over half of all food waste occurs before it even reaches the plate. Losses are incurred in production – via damage through poor handling, use of machinery, and incorrect storage conditions and during the processing stage, through contamination, inefficiencies and inappropriate packaging. Waste can also be incurred during distribution, either from a lack cooling or storage facilities, food going unsold or expiring before sale.


Business Unit Director for Certification

Bureau Veritas

“As individuals we all do our part to reduce food waste by buying only what we need and cooking in realistic quantities, but it’s clear the food industry has a critical role to play too. Responsible operators are already looking at what they can do to address the issue head-on.”

How can we reduce food waste?

Tackling food waste is key to achieving sustainability. SGD 12 for sustainable consumption and production patterns aims to halve per capita global food waste at retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.

Preventative actions come top In a UN ranking of waste reduction strategies, followed by reuse pathways of surplus food fit for human consumption, reuse of food as animal feedstuff, recycling of material into high added-value products recycling of nutrients and recovery of energy.

Clare Blyth adds: “Preventing waste upstream should inevitably result in a reduction of resources for strategies downstream and will reduce the need to invest in recycling and valorisation technologies. But adopting a circular economy business model, which promotes and incentivises reuse, recycling and recovery, is likely to play a huge part in achieving the UN’s goal.

“This can include recycling in the processing stage to reuse waste using technology such as bioenergy, as well as valorisation, which treats processing waste (e.g. from fruit, cereal or fish-based food) to use for food additives, pharmaceutical products and cosmetics.

Research is also underway to find ways to recuperate useful products from waste generated by meat and fish processing, and organic acids from the processing of cereals.”

Support from global experts

Bureau Veritas works with the food industry to provide a wide range of services that support food waste.

Clare Blyth adds: “Waste reduction begins with measuring and monitoring. It is vital that organisations in the value chain are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating not only their contribution to the problem, but also the performance of all actions implemented to make improvements. That’s where we can help, with Bureau Veritas Circular+.”

Our specialist Food team uses Key Performance Indicators to track the achievement of each action's goals and identify further opportunities for reducing waste. The objective must be one of continual improvement, and it is therefore critical that companies put in place systems that support and enable this approach.

Bureau Veritas’ Circular+ offer is designed to enable agrifood companies to move towards a circular economy model to reduce their environmental footprint throughout the value chain and implement more sustainable business practices. By renewing, reusing and recycling materials at every stage of the food supply chain, companies can preserve the critical resources that allow their businesses to flourish and support more sustainable operations.”

Aug. 4 2022