Overeating is ecologically worse than food waste

Researchers in Italy have found a way to measure the ecological impact of overeating. It shows that overeating wastes far more food that we throw away.

While it is well established by now that food waste has a large ecological footprint, the environmental impact of overeating is far less known.

To contribute to this gap in our knowledge, researchers in Italy have proposed a way to measure the environmental footprint of global food waste due to excessive consumption. According to a press release, they first estimated the net excess bodyweight of each country’s population using BMA and height data, and then distributed its energy convent among food groups according to national availability.

Their results suggest that direct food waste – thrown away or lost from field to fork – is far less than overconsumption.

“Excess bodyweight corresponds to roughly 140 billion tonnes of food waste globally,” said lead researcher Professor Mauro Serafini from the University of Teramo. This is considerably higher than the current annual direct food waste, which is estimated at just 1.3 billion tonnes.

Using their method, fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest direct wastage rates, but excess energy consumption is dominated by more calorie-dense foods, which typically use more land, water and greenhouse gases to produce.

The growing world’s metabolic food waste is expected to generate the equivalent of 240 billion tonnes of CO2, roughly the amount released from burning fossil fuels over the last seven years. The EU, North America and Oceania together contribute to this estimate as much as the rest of the world combined, with animal products – meat, eggs and dairy – accounting for 75 per cent.

In other words: overeating is bad for our planet’s health, not just our own.

Image credit: Tom Sodoge via Unsplash

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