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With every unfinished meal since Band Aid, you've heard it: "people are starving in Africa, y'know". True, the UN estimates that rich countries throw away nearly as much food as the entire net production of sub-Saharan Africa—about 230 million tonnes per year. But is it any less a waste to eat the excess food?
Morally, it's equivocal. Nutritionally, it depends. However: the land, water and carbon footprints are just the same.
Fact - Researchers - Italy - Way - Impact
In fact, researchers in Italy have proposed a way to measure the ecological impact of global food wastage due to excessive consumption. First, they estimated the net excess bodyweight of each country's population—based on BMI and height data—and distributed its energy content among foods groups according to national availability.
Published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the results suggest that direct food waste—thrown away or lost from field to fork—is a mere hors-d'uvre.
Bodyweight - Corresponds - Tonnes - Food - Waste
"Excess bodyweight corresponds to roughly 140 billion tonnes of food waste globally," reports group lead Prof. Mauro Serafini, of the University of Teramo. This figure is a snapshot of the current world population's accumulated dietary excesses, not a rate of overconsumption. It is, though, orders of magnitude higher than current annual direct food waste, estimated at 1.3 billion tonnes.
The disproportionate impact of Serafini's so-called 'metabolic food waste' grows when its ecological costs are calculated, using per-kilo values from thousands of food lifecycle assessments. Fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest direct wastage rates, but excess energy consumption is dominated by more calorie-dense foods. These typically entail more land, water and greenhouse gases to produce.
World - Food - Waste
So much so, that growing the world's metabolic food waste would be expected...
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