FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimizing Waste Prevention Strategies) is a project funded by the European Commission which ended in July 2016. The aim was to make food waste monitoring all over the EU-28 comparable, to gather knowledge about how to reduce discarded food and to build a framework on Food Waste policy for the EU-27. To accomplish their goals, FUSIONS collected data about discarded food in different sectors in the EU between 2012 and 2016. Member states provided the most information about wasted food in households; therefore this sector will be topic of this blog post. I read through their research paper called “Estimates of European food waste levels” and gathered the most important findings about this pressing issue in European households.
First of all: Not all EU-28 countries provided data about their food waste. To fill the data gaps, mean levels of food waste were calculated on the basis of the countries that have supplied data. In the next step the averages were multiplied by the population of each country. This is a legit measure if samples, in this case the countries which provided data, are proven not to be representative for the population which are in this case the EU-28 member states. However this procedure is questionable mainly due to the fact that higher income countries are not comparable to lower income countries. These countries might differ enormously in regard to their spending capacity and subsequently in their disposal of food. Results are therefore only estimates and never true values. The title of the research paper gave this fact away anyway. Nevertheless it is important to point it out again because the findings should be assessed critically.
19 out of 28 countries made data available about food waste in households. Eleven of them submitted data about generated food waste within the municipal waste stream. FUSIONS acknowledge data from municipalities to be more reliable in comparison to mere estimates of food waste streams. Therefore, the approximations for the EU‑28 member states were derived from those eleven countries. The data submitted by the countries is representative for the whole country and is based on current findings.
Defining food waste
There exists no European framework that defines food waste. FUSIONS defined food waste as food which is edible as well as thrown away and food which could not be consumed anymore and was discarded. The research paper highlights this differentiation between these two in all their calculations.
Costs of food waste
To calculate the cost of edible and inedible food waste in households, FUSIONS used a study from the UK as a basis. The prices were converted from Pounds to Euro. Relative price differences between the UK and the EU were taken into account and adjusted. The result shows that European household waste 46.5 million tonnes of food worth 98 billion Euros on average per year. According to the research paper, every person produces 92 kilogram food waste. Alarming is that 60 % of this food could still be consumed. Taking into consideration that the numbers are only indications, they are still too high. This amount of food waste is of course also expensive. One tonne of edible food waste is estimated to cost around 3.529 Euro.
Disposing edible veggies, fruits, and other goodies is the same as literally throwing away money. 3.529 Euro could have been spent so much better. 706 people could have eaten at our Wasteless Wednesday Dinner based on suggested five Euro donations. There we actively fight food waste together. You want to help us? Joins us next Wednesday!