Food production entails emissions from agriculture, but also from processing, transport and packaging.
Food wastage has a disastrous impact on the climate, contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions of 3.49 billion tonnes of CO2eq (carbon dioxide equivalent). In Poland it is estimated at 16.5 million tons of CO2eq. This is more than half of the emissions produced by agriculture in our country.
Without a reduction in food wastage, it will not be possible to halt the climate catastrophe. The first step should be to reduce the amount of food thrown away by households and to reduce wasting food in the sales process. Food production causes not only emissions associated with agricultural production, but also with agri-food processing, transport (both agricultural raw materials and food products), packaging and preparation for sale.
“Unfortunately, I have the impression that this problem is being disregarded by the government. So far, we do not have any regulations in Poland that would prevent food from being wasted,” points out Zbigniew Karaczun, PhD, Professor at SGGW, expert of the Climate Coalition.
The expert emphasizes that the more processed the food, the higher its carbon footprint (see the box) and the greater its impact on the climate. For example, throwing away 1 kg of butter causes the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as wasting almost 80 kg of apples. But throwing away food is not only a problem contributing to climate change. Above all, it is a negative social and economic phenomenon.
“Food is the basis for the existence of every human being. It has been produced for consumption and should be used in this way. Meanwhile, we throw away huge amounts of food without thinking that there is someone who needs it. Every year as much as 9 million tons of food is wasted in Poland. Such an amount would be enough to feed all the inhabitants of Warsaw for ten years. At the same time, over 1.6 million Poles are living in extreme poverty. This is a paradox!” stresses Marek Borowski, President of the Federation of Polish Food Banks.
The expert points out that wasting food produced for consumption leads to depleting the available food resources and in this way food will not reach the most deprived people. This translates into an increase in the prices of products on a market scale, which means that they are becoming less accessible, especially to people in a difficult financial situation.
France’s GDP equivalent lands in the rubbish bin
“The food we waste is the food stolen from the table of the poor. This is what the tradition of the church has always said, this is what Pope Francis says today,” adds Mateusz Piotrowski from the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
According to the Central Statistical Office data, the threshold of extreme poverty in Poland is PLN 550 for a single person, while for a family of four it reaches PLN 1486, which gives PLN 371.50 per household member. At the same time, as many as 3.7 million Poles admit that they throw away food every day, and almost 12 million – once a week. Losses due to food waste amount to approx. PLN 630 per person a year. This means that an average family of four loses more than 2.5 thousand zlotys annually in Poland as a result of wasting and throwing food away.
The economic value of global food waste in 2014 exceeded USD 2.1 trillion. The sum of these costs corresponds to France’s GDP!
The cost of food waste in the European Union is estimated at 143 billion euros. It is estimated that if no radical action is taken, the amount of food wasted in the EU will increase to almost 130 million tonnes per year by the end of this decade. This represents an increase in costs amounting to more than €200 billion.
In Poland, wasting 9 million tonnes of food contributes to losses amounting to PLN 60 billion (EUR 14 billion).
More details can be found in the latest report „The impact of wasting food on climate change”, which was released by the Climate Coalition.
The carbon footprint of food products is the total amount of emissions – both direct and indirect – necessary for food production at all stages of the product’s life cycle. The footprint is expressed in units of CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) emissions.