A post by Adèle Garret
You know the score – it is estimated that a quarter to half of the food we produce worldwide is wasted or lost . This makes reducing food waste and loss a key component in reducing food insecurity and in achieving the reduction of human impact on water use, land use, and the climate [1; 2].
Where does it happen?
In many world-regions, climate conditions, inadequate storage conditions and poor transportation methods lead to food being lost . In Switzerland however, most of the waste happens during processing (35%). Households are responsible for about 28% of the waste, while the gastronomy accounts for 7% of food waste. Wholesale and retail waste around 10% of food, while agriculture is responsible for approximately 20% of the total food loss .
What is the environmental impact?
Avoidable food loss amounts to 25% of the nutrition-related footprint and accounts for 24 % of the climate impact of the Swiss food system . Food that is not used, indirectly wastes the resources that were used to produce it  and has environmental impacts . As an example, consider the sightly rotten apple you threw away: it needs to be produced twice, because you wish to eat the perfect apple. Logical consequence, the further out in the value chain the waste happens, the worst the environmental impact .
What can be done against it?
Since April 2022, Switzerland has set up an action plan that involves corporations, the public sector, federations, and associations  while initiatives such as https://foodwaste.ch/ do a great job at raising consumers’ awareness. Wasted food is a lost opportunities to save CO2 emissions, to preserve biodiversity and to increase both worldwide and national food security. By combining a reduction of wasted food with a change for a more plant-based – and thus less resource-intensive- diet we can change our food systems for the best .
This blog post was written in spring 2023 as part of the module “Welternährungssysteme” in the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering at the ZHAW Institute of Natural Resource Sciences.
- Guo, X., Broeze, J., Groot, J. J., Axmann, H., & Vollebregt, M. (2020). A worldwide hotspot analysis on food loss and waste, associated greenhouse gas emissions, and protein losses. Sustainability, 12(18), 7488. https://edepot.wur.nl/532420
- Hensel K. (2021, December 22). Why Reducing Food Loss and Waste Matters – IFT.org. https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/digital-exclusives/why-reducing-food-loss-and-waste-matters
- FAO. (2019). The state of the food and agriculture. Moving Forward on Food Loss and Waste reduction. https://www.fao.org/3/CA6030EN/CA6030EN.pdf
- Beretta, C., & Hellweg, S. (2019). Lebensmittelverluste in der Schweiz: Umweltbelastung und Vermeidungspotential. Institut für Umweltingenieurwissenschaften: Zurich, Switzerland.
- Chapagain, A., & James, K. (2013). Accounting for the impact of food waste on water resources and climate change. Food industry wastes, 217-236.
- Springmann, M., Clark, M., Mason-D’Croz, D., Wiebe, K., Bodirsky, B. L., Lassaletta, L., … & Willett, W. (2018). Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature, 562(7728), 519-525. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0594-0
- Cattaneo, A., Federighi, G., & Vaz, S. (2021). The environmental impact of reducing food loss and waste: A critical assessment. Food Policy, 98, 101890. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2020.101890.
- BAFU. (2022). Aktionsplan gegen die Lebensmittelverschwendung. https://www.bafu.admin.ch/dam/bafu/de/dokumente/abfall/externe-studien-berichte/aktionsplan_gegen_die_lebensmittelverschwendung.pdf.download.pdf/Aktionsplan%20gegen%20die%20Lebensmittelverschwendung.pdf