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Food waste on a European scale

Food waste is a global challenge for which States are struggling to put in place concrete measures. There is an urgent need to rethink the way we produce and consume, so that every human being can afford to eat and have access to quality food.

The European Parliament recalled in a resolution in 2017 that approximately 55 million people in the European Union (9.6% of the population) do not have the opportunity to afford a quality meal every other day. In the meantime, FAO estimates that one third of the world's food production is lost, (1.3 billion tons of food each year). Food waste raises ethical and moral questions to which the international community must find solutions. 

Similarly, from an environmental and climate point of view, the consequences of food waste are considerable; soil degradation, declining soil fertility, excessive water use, seabed degradation and overfishing are factors that have severely reduced our natural resources and their ability to produce food1. The UN estimates that 30% of energy consumption is attributable to the food sector and represents nearly 22% of greenhouse gases. 

To address these challenges, the United Nations has adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that provide a way forward to achieve a more sustainable and fair future for all. To specifically tackle the issue of food waste, SDG 12.3 encourages States to reduce "by half worldwide the volume of food waste per capita in both distribution and consumption and to reduce food losses throughout production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses3".



88 million tons of foods were wasted in the European Union. This is 20% of the total food production that is thrown away and €143 billion in losses. When compared to an individual, this 20% means that a person wastes about 173 kg of food per year. 

It therefore seems essential that the European Union agree on a clear and official definition of food waste and loss, in order to present reliable statistics and indicators on food waste that will make it possible to assess the efforts to be made and measures to be adopted in each of the 28 Member States to raise awareness, prevent and adopt different production and consumption behaviors. 


Food waste and food loss

The fight against food waste is a central approach to a more sustainable food supply.

A distinction must be made between the notion of food loss and food waste.

Food loss represents losses that occur upstream in the food chain, during the sowing, cultivation, harvesting, storage processing and first agricultural processing phases.

Food waste, on the other hand, represents waste arising during industrial processing, distribution and final consumption.


Food waste in France

In France, food wastage is estimated at around 10 million tons per year, of which 2,3 million tons are wasted at the distribution level, 1,5 million at the restoration level and 6,5 million at the domestic level, i.e. 15,3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (ADEME, French Environment and Energy Management Agency, 2016).

An ADEME report calculates that a 300g French baguette generates 140g of CO2 emissions and consumes 155 litres of water, due to irrigation and manufacturing processes.

Every year in France, 300,000 tons of bread are wasted, or 4,5 kg per capita (ADEME, 2014). According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, this represents an annual waste of 16,000 kg of pesticides, 155,000 m3 of water and 543,000 tons of carbon produced unnecessarily.

The fruit and vegetable chain also suffers from waste: 23% of total fruit and vegetable production is wasted each year in France, i.e. more than 2 million tonnes. These unsold fruits and vegetables use 381,000 kg of pesticides (Ministry of Agriculture) and produce more than 250,000 tons of carbon unnecessarily.


Unemployment of persons with disabilities

Today in France, 500,000 people with disabilities are unemployed.

Adapted companies and WISEs (Work Integration Social Enterprises) play a key role in access to work for these people. In France, they currently employ more than 140,000 people with disabilities.

SoliFoodWaste is a collaborative project between unsold bread and fruit and vegetable donors, WISE processors, HTS in steering and marketing and customers/distributors of final products and all committed to change the game and move towards more local, more sustainable and healthy food.