The tourism sector is increasingly setting sight on food waste, striving to align its targets with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the initiatives of governments around the world.

So far academia and institutions have not come up with a universal definition of food waste, mainly due to the different variables which exist in the process and a series of relevant points of inquiry (e.g.):
  • Does the food waste occur in the food supply or in the consumption chain?
  • Does it include inedible food waste?
  • What provokes it and what are the key benefits for the businesses that manage it effectively?
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines food waste as the “uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences and commercial establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants, and produce stands, institutional cafeterias and kitchens, and industrial sources like employee lunchrooms“. On the other hand, looking at Australia’s National Food Waste Strategy food waste is defined as “solid or liquid food that is intended for human consumption and is generated across the entire supply and consumption chain”. Besides edible food, this definition also includes inedible food (the parts of food that are not consumed like bones, seeds, peels, etc). However, the main battle of organizations and institutions is against the wastage of edible food.

FAO, the UN’s organization for Food and Agriculture, has stated ⅓ of all food produced in the world intended for human consumption is lost or wasted (FAO, 2011). This amounts to losses of $940 billion per year and results in 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. This means that as a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest emitter, after China and the US (FAO, 2015). Although household consumption and manufacturing contribute the most to this pattern, hospitality and food services is another sector that generates significant amounts of food waste, around 12% in Europe. In Germany, for example, it accounts for 17% and in the UK for 10% of total food wastage. The recent report of Pacific Asia Travel Association on food waste, stresses that hospitality, food service, and food retail outlets in the UK generate 75% of food waste which is avoidable, which means that 1 in 6 meals is thrown away.

Subsequently, many countries around the globe have introduced policies aiming to address food waste. France, famously banned in 2016, all supermarkets from disposing of any food that has not been sold. Already in 2009, the Republic of Ireland introduced a national programme focused on promoting food waste regulations. The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has established a knowledge platform that showcases the best cases in relation to food waste reduction. These sustainable dynamics in Europe, are mainly connected with the EU Member States’ commitment to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030. 

Canada has taken a very proactive stance on waste issues through the Waste Reduction and Recovery Committee. Accordingly, different provinces established various initiatives with regard to their food waste reduction commitment:
As food waste is related to 4 out of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Goals- zero hunger, responsible consumption and production, climate action, partnerships for the goals- the tourism industry is obliged to take the opportunity, make a positive long-lasting legacy and stimulate the adoption of preventive practices concerning food waste.

The second part of our account next week will shed light on good practices that take place already within the tourism sector and encourage further innovation. 





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