Global Food Waste – What are the Causes and how can we Fix it?


Image in courtesy of

A world with a growing population is inevitably accompanied by a world in need of more food. As a result, nations will likely see a greater amount of food waste being produced since a surplus of food will be produced to feed the projected 9 billion humans by 2050. It is important to recognize how much food is wasted globally as this problem is projected to worsen in our future. Global food waste poses great threats to our environments and to communities across the globe who have to live amongst the waste. This waste is not only an issue for the developed world who produces the most, but also for the developing nations because they are the ones who are burdened with a majority of the developed nations waste when it is transported or floats across seas to the lesser developed world. In order to begin taking action for global food waste, we must first examine its causes and formulate who is at fault and what can be done currently and in the future.

In 2011 the Save Food Congress published a study which defined the many causes of global food losses and waste. In summary, they found that the causes for food losses in low income countries were due to the following:


  • Poor storage facilities
  • Poor infrastructure and transportation, lack of refrigeration
  • Inadequate market facilities
  • Poor packaging

Following this data, they also reported the causes of food waste in relation to high income countries:


  • Quality standards (aesthetic defects)
  • Manufacturing (trimming scraps, transportation losses)
  • Poor environmental conditions during market display
  • Lack of planning while cooking – limited focus on waste
  • Best-before-dates and Use-by-dates
  • Leftovers

As we can tell by this information, problems associated with low income countries are mainly due to lack of resources such as the ability to refrigerate, adequately pack, or properly distribute. In contrast, developed countries do not seem to have these same issues, or at least not as severely since they acquire much more access to necessary resources. What we find in more developed nations is a lack of conscientiousness when it comes to food waste and standards that lead to wasting food because we expect our food to look and taste the highest quality possible.

In terms of national food waste, it is disappointing to find that North American alone wastes 30-40% of our food (Food Waste: The Facts). Even more alarming is the fact that as a nation, we are attempting to move towards more environmentally friendly practices with organic products, yet the same authors found that organic waste if the second highest component of landfills (2015). With the U.S. alone wasting so much food and placing it in landfills, we are causing detrimental effects to our environments by simply acting careless and being naïve to the effects we produce from wasting food that could have gone to use.


Photo in courtesy of Word Resources Institute

The causes of this issue are crucial in understanding what can be done about global food losses and waste. First and foremost, education seems to be the leading step in creating action across the world, especially in developing nations (Save Food Congress). In low income countries it is necessary to expand the developed world’s resources to aid in packaging and storage so that food losses lessen overtime. In developed nations, there is a need for improved purchase and consumption planning, education, improved communication within supply chains, and consumer power (Save Food Congress). With this knowledge, I find that the world can start moving in the right direction in terms of how we can start to solve global food waste. If our world is to help improve our environment through lessening food waste, awareness must be provided and action must be taken.






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4 responses to “Global Food Waste – What are the Causes and how can we Fix it?

  1. amyquandt

    What efforts are being made to reduce food losses in developing countries? Are there organizations working on food storage?


  2. kennedyroddy

    In developing countries, measures have been taken to improve storage of food, refrigeration, and packing of foods in order to lessen devastating food losses. The FAO of the UN has a Save Food Initiative where they are partnering up with other organizations to prevent and reduce food losses and waste in the developing world. In addition, an NGO called Practical Action is also encouraging earthenware refrigerators for developing countries as they are relatively easy to make and do not require expensive resources.


  3. adampeterman

    With all the resources that go into growing and producing food, it is such a shame that over 1/3 of the food will end up in the landfill. I agree that for wealthier nations, education seems like the best option to alleviate this problem. I think if people knew how much food they waste–and the impacts this creates–they would think twice about throwing the food into the garbage. I am interested to see if the amount of food Americans are wasting has increased in the past 50 years. Our culture has always been to live large and lavishly, but I wonder if we have always wasted this much food. Have you found any info about the history of food waste in America?


    • kennedyroddy

      Throughout my research, I did not come across the specific history of American food waste, although I do think that would be fascinating to know. With an increasing population and agricultural industries that are advancing rapidly, I would predict that food waste has most definitely increased over time with increased food production. Furthermore, since American is an affluent country, this comes with higher standards such as the shape, size, and packaging of food which I would also heavily contribute to increased waste throughout the decades.
      I have attached an article which is specifically related to the history of food waste. I hope you enjoy this read:


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