Food waste

Providing everyone with healthy food without harming the environment will become increasingly challenging. In 2040 there will be 9 billion people to feed. Food demands will change, emerging economies will require more meat and at the same time certain limited resources such as water and phosphate will have to be managed sustainably.


A graphic description of world population growth from 1 A.D.

In 2011 KLV celebrated its 125th anniversary. The main theme of the anniversary year was: 'How to feed our world?'. KLV tries to embed this theme in diverse activities and articles. Read more about this theme in the KLV articles, mentioned below.

Food waste

Food waste far away from you? Not at all! In the Netherlands alone we already waste an estimated one third of our food.Waste is throwing away good food, because it does not meet the cosmetic requirements, or because the expiry dates are dealt with too strictly, or simply because we buy more than we can eat. These reasons are partly on the consumer’s side, but companies and supermarkets play a roll in this as well. Together, we waste so much food that we can easily feed 5.000 people in one afternoon. Join us and show that you want to help bring about change!

Dutch facts:

  • On average, consumers throw away 14% of the food they have bought. This comes down to 50kg of food.
  • On average, one person wastes 50kg of solid food (including dairy produce and oil) per year. This still is excluding the waste of beverages (coffee, tea, soda, wine, beer, lemonade etc.)
  • Consumers in the Netherlands waste 0.8 billion kilos a year. This equals an estimated 2.4 billion worth of food a year. On average, this means about €350 for each household and €155 per person.
  • Besides the €2.4 billion food waste by consumers, another estimated €2 billion is wasted in the rest of the food chain. Added up, this makes a total of €4.4 billion worth of food that is wasted per year. 

Source: Milieu Centraal, 2012 and Van Westerhoven en Steenhuisen, 2010.

Facts for other countries

  • Globally, one third of the food supply could be saved in the process of diminishing food waste. One third suffices for feeding 3 billion people, which is enough for countries to provide their population with 130% of the nutritional requirements.
  • 25% of the food wasted in Europe, the US and the UK would be enough to feed 1 million undernourished people.
  • 2,3 million tons of fish caught the North-Atlantic ocean and the North Sea and 40 to 60% of all caught fish in Europe is thrown away, because they have the wrong size, are from the wrong sort or because of the bad European quota system.
  • Americans waste 40% of their food during the journey from ‘farm to fork’. Translated to dollars, this means that $165 billion is wasted in the US, every year.
  • 40% of caught fish, 23% of fresh eggs and 20% of milk is wasted in the US every year. Besides the waste of food, this means a waste of important resources as well: 10% of the total energy budget, 50% of the land and 80% of fresh water that is reserved for food production and food export is lost.
  • In the UK, consumers waste 20% of the food they buy.
  • 24-35% of lunches in British schools end up in the trash. 

These are just a few facts. A lot of research has been done and you can read more on food waste in the Netherlands in the Monitor Voedselverspilling of Wageningen UR.

Source: Milieu Centraal, 2012 en Van Westerhoven en Steenhuisen, 2010 en Tristram Stuart, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (Penguin, 2009).

From farm to fork

Food is wasted throughout the food chain. In rich countries with relatively high incomes, it is mostly consumers that waste food. In countries with lower incomes, food is mostly wasted in the industrial food processing and food production companies. The main reasons are the financial, governmental and technical limitations of harvesting techniques, the way of food storing and cooling facilities in difficult conditions.

In countries with higher incomes, food waste often is the consequence of consumer behavior and the lack of proper coordination between the various actors in the chain. Quality standards for food that are set by large institutions determine the purchase and waste of agricultural crops. Food that deviates from the esthetic or quality norm is thrown away, even before it reaches the consumer. Because of this, farmers can only sell part of their crops to companies from Western countries. Consumers simply don’t want to buy crooked cucumbers or apples with a brown spot. They are spoiled by large companies with ‘best quality’ food. Furthermore, most consumers blindly consider the ‘best before’ date as the date on which they should throw a product away.

The US and Europe produce nearly 3 times more food than is actually need to feed their population. The production of food is a huge burden for the environment. In the Netherlands, the food industry is responsible for more than 50% of the total burden for the environment. Consider the CO2 emissions, use of water, transport miles and waste disposal.


The more people become aware of the amount of food that is wasted and what the impact thereof is, the faster a reduction of food waste can be realized. The most well known person in the battle against food waste is Tristram Stuart. The young Briton, who won the prestigious sustainability prize Sophie Prize 2011, travels around the world to make people and companies more aware of food waste.

Hear the inspiring words of Tristam Stuart on Youtube: The global food waste scandal.


Source: Damn Food Waste - an initiative of WUR, FoodGuerrilla (NCDO),Voedingscentrum, Youth Food Movement (YFM),Natuur & Milieu and Feeding the 5000/EU Fusions.

More information about this subject can also be found at:
Food battle 
Feeding the 5000
No Waste Network
Love Food hate waste

Read also:
- Article KLV Update no. 4, november 2012
- Article Wageningen World no. 1, 2012 (page 10)
- Article Wageningen World no. 4, 2011 (page 46)
- Article Wageningen UR: Two times more, with two times less 


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