European consumers waste an average of 123 kilograms of food per capita each year, almost 80 per cent of which is avoidable because it is edible food, finds a new study. This amounts to 47 million tonnes of avoidable food waste annually.
The study ‘Lost water and nitrogen resources due to EU consumer food waste’ is based on data from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania. Conducted by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, it found that avoidable food waste of the average EU citizen is within the range of 45 to 153 kilograms per capita per year.
The study included food waste at the household level – which accounts for a major part – and food waste in the catering section, such as restaurants and schools.
Vegetables, fruit and cereals are wasted more than other food groups as they have a relatively short shelf life and are not used in time. They are also generally cheaper than other product groups and tend to be over-purchased.
While meat is wasted less than other product groups, it accounts for the largest avoidable food waste footprint because its production is very resource intensive. In other words, a small reduction in wasted meat equates to a large reduction in wasted water and nitrogen resources, explains the JRC.
UK consumers were responsible for the highest food waste, equivalent to a small loaf of bread per day. Romanian consumers wasted the least, but at 45 kilograms per capital per year it still equates to an apple a day.
The importance of reducing or even eradicating food waste is crucial in a world with limited resources. For instance, the research found that the blue water – surface and groundwater resources – footprint associated with the avoidable food waste averaged 27 litres per capita per day, slightly higher than EU municipal water use. The green water – or rainwater – footprint was equivalent to the amount used for crop production in Spain per 294 litres per capita per day. Similarly the nitrogen footprint was 2.74 kilograms per capita per year, which is the same amount used in mineral fertiliser in the UK and Germany together.