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International Cooperation

International Efforts on Wasted Food Recovery

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates Exit that around the world about a third of food intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. This amounts to over a billion tons of food and $940 billion in economic losses annually, while one in nine people remain undernourished. In the U.S., 40% of food is lost or wasted, annually costing an estimated $218 billion or 1.3% of GDP. Food accounts for 21% of solid waste to U.S. landfills. 
The Business and Sustainable Development Commission estimates Exit that by 2030 reducing food waste will represent a $155-405 billion economic opportunity. Investing in cost-effective solutions to reduce food waste by 20% in the U.S. over the next 10 years would generate a net economic value of $10 billion for consumers and business, reduce water demand by 1.6 trillion gallons or 1.5% of U.S. freshwater withdraws, create 15,000 new jobs, and divert 9.5 million tons of waste from landfills. (Source: ReFED, “The Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent “ (2016)).
This image shows the food recovery hierarchy. At the top the most preferable method is source reduction, then feed hungry people, then feed animals, then industrial uses, then composting and the least preferred method is landfill and incineration.
EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy framework provides a basis for many domestic and international food waste reduction strategies. In 2015, EPA and USDA announced a goal to reduce food waste in the U.S. by 50% by 2030. Over 30 businesses have joined the 2030 Champions group by committing to reduce food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50% by 2030. In 2016, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution supporting a multi stakeholder partnership to achieve the 50% reduction goal. In April 2019, EPA, USDA, and the FDA announced the release of a federal interagency strategy to address food waste, as part of the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. To learn more, visit EPA's Sustainable Management of Food site. 

International Efforts to Address Food Waste

Working internationally, EPA has elevated awareness of and commitments to food waste reduction.  

In May 2016, ministers and delegations from 174 countries gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss a wide variety of critical environmental issues at the Second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2). The conference focused on the theme “Healthy Environments, Healthy People.”  The assembly adopted a resolution introduced by EPA on the prevention, reduction and reuse of food waste, marking the first time this topic was raised as a significant issue in a multilateral environment ministers meeting. More recently, at the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) in March 2019, a resolution was passed that builds upon the U.S. sponsored UNEA-2 resolution by recognizing the important role that cold-chain solutions and innovative technologies have when prioritizing food loss and waste prevention.

Since 2015, EPA, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Mexico’s SEMARNAT (Department of Environmental and Natural Resources) have been collaborating on preventing and minimizing food loss and waste as a shared North American priority area through the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC efforts continue under the Measuring and Reducing Food Loss and Waste project, Exit which is working to effectively measure food loss and waste in the North American food chain; calculate its environmental and socioeconomic impacts; and provide tools and education to prevent and reduce loss and its impacts on food security, the economy, and the environment in North America.

In April 2019, the Commission launched two new products. The first is a technical report and practical guide to address food loss and waste throughout the food chain using measurement tools based on scientific, proven principles. The guide provides easy-to-use measurements and information for every segment of the food value chain – from primary production to manufacturing and the food service industry. The Technical Report Exitand the Practical Guide Exitare available in English, French, and Spanish. The second deliverable is the Food Matters Action KitExit a youth engagement toolkit containing activities designed for youth across North America to prevent food waste in their homes and communities. These twenty activities are arranged for two age groups, one for kids, ages 5-13 and another for youth, ages 14-25. Individuals, teams of friends, or clubs and organizations can register to document their achievements, earn shareable Food Waste Hero badges and challenge others on this site. 

EPA supported a recent report by the UN Environment Programme North America Office titled, “Waste Not, Want Not: Reducing Food Loss and Waste in North America Through Life Cycle-Based Approaches,” Exit which was released during UNEA-4 in March 2019. The report examines ways in which life cycle thinking and related tools such as life cycle assessment can be used to inform effective policy making to reduce food loss and waste. Multiple case studies in the report highlight examples on how lifecycle thinking is already being used successfully to reduce food loss and waste in North America. 

EPA continues to reinforce the importance of addressing food loss and waste in multilateral engagements with organizations such as UN Environment, G7 and G20 fora, World Bank, OECD, Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Resources Institute.  

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For additional information on EPA's work with International Efforts on Wasted Food Recovery, contact:
Elle Chang
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6600