By Sharon Atieno

With more than 783 million people hungry and one in three people facing food insecurity, the world wasted more than one billion meals daily in 2022.

This is according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Food Waste Index 2024 report co-authored with Water and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Out of the total food wasted in 2022, households were responsible for 60% (about 631 million tonnes), with food services responsible for 28% (about 290 million tonnes) and retail for 12% (about 131 million tonnes).

The report notes that hotter countries appear to have more food waste per capita in households, potentially due to increased consumption of fresh foods with substantial inedible parts and lack of robust cold chain.

“Higher seasonal temperatures, extreme heat events, and droughts make it more challenging to store, process, transport, and sell food safely, often leading to significant volumes of food being wasted or lost,” the report says.

Additionally, most of the food waste was found to occur in urban areas. This may be because rural areas have greater circularity in their food systems (including feeding scraps to animals and composting). Thus, special attention is needed to help circularity thrive in the city.

Tracking progress to meet sustainable development goal (SDG) 12.3

For the world to be able to meet SDG 12.3 which calls for halving food waste by 2030, systems for tracking food waste should be strengthened. The report finds that low-and-middle-income countries lack adequate systems for tracking this progress, particularly in retail and food services.

“Very few countries have collected robust food waste data, which is essential in understanding the scale of the problem, in targeting hotspots, and in assessing the efficacy of interventions,” the report reads.

Of the G20 countries, only four (Australia, Japan, UK and the USA) and the European Union have food waste estimates suitable for tracking progress to 2030. Canada and Saudi Arabia have suitable household estimates, with Brazil’s estimate expected late 2024.

The report notes that the G20 countries have significant potential to demonstrate successful pathways to SDG 12.3 delivery- as Japan and the UK are doing by reducing food waste by 31% and 18% respectively due to the implementation of policies and partnerships.

“With the huge cost to the environment, society, and global economies caused by food waste, we need greater coordinated action across continents and supply chains. We support UNEP in calling for more G20 countries to measure food waste and work towards SDG12.3,” said Harriet Lamb, CEO of WRAP.

The report recommends that countries should use the Food Waste Index guidance provided in the report to measure food waste consistently. Some of the perimeters required from the Member States include defining a scope (select the sector(s) they can report on), selecting suitable methods to measure food waste (net fresh mass), conducting studies using the chosen method(s), scaling measurements from representative studies into national estimates, reporting food waste for the Food Waste Index and repeating studies regularly (at least every four years) using a consistent methodology.

Inclusion in climate action

Food waste generates an estimated eight to 10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including from both loss and waste), while it takes up the equivalent of nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural land.

Despite this, only 21 countries, since 2022, have included food loss and/or waste reduction in their national climate plans (NDCs) including Cabo Verde, China, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the report, the 2025 NDCs revision process provides a key opportunity to raise climate ambition by integrating food loss and waste. The Food Waste Index Report underscores the urgency of addressing food waste at both individual and systemic levels.


UNEP maintains tracking country-level progress to halve food waste by 2030, with a growing focus on solutions beyond measurement towards reduction.

One of these solutions is systemic action through public-private partnerships (PPPs): Bringing the public sector, private sector and non-government to work together, identify bottlenecks, co-develop solutions, and drive progress.

According to the report, appropriate financing can enable PPPs to deliver farm-to-fork reductions in food waste, drive down GHGs emissions and water stress, while sharing best practices and encouraging innovation for long-term, holistic change.

PPPs on food loss and waste are growing worldwide, including in Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and in the UK where they have helped cut over a quarter of household food waste per capita from 2007-18.

“Food waste is a global tragedy…Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature. The good news is we know if countries prioritize this issue, they can significantly reverse food loss and waste, reduce climate impacts and economic losses, and accelerate progress on global goals,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.