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How Global Food Waste is choking our Planet?

How Global Food Waste is choking our Planet?


  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Conservation Efforts

Why in the news?

Food waste is a problem across the world, with global rates averaging around 40 per cent of food being produced being wasted. As opposed to most other metrics, India sort of achieves this one

The Food Waste Index Report 2021:

  • According to the Food Waste Index Report 2021, “approximately 931 million tonnes of food waste were collected in 2019, with 61 percent coming from households, 26 percent from food service, and 13 percent from retail,” according to a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its partner organization WRAP.
  • Out of that staggering amount, India contributed a stunning 68.8 tonnes a year, averaging out 50kg per household per year. “About 189.2 million people in India are undernourished,” according to FAO figures in the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020 report.”
  • By this measure 14% of the population is undernourished in India. It is believes that there is needs to be a three-pronged approach to tackle the issue

The problem of food waste:

  • Food waste problem of modern time: The problem of food waste is a relatively modern one. India is an ancient civilisation and has been prudent about food for millennia.
  • India’s contribution in food waste: According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, nearly 40% of the food produced in India is wasted each year due to fragmented food systems and inadequate supply chains (FAO). This is the loss that happens before the food is delivered to the customer.
  • Food waste generated at home:On a regular basis at home we produce a large amount of food waste in our households. According to the Food Waste Index Report 2021, Indian households waste 50 kg of food per person per year.
  • Impact of excess waste food dumping: This excess food waste usually ends up in landfills, creating potent greenhouse gases which have dire environmental implications.
  • In pandemic time: The pandemic not only revealed but also exacerbated the problem of food waste. Surplus grain stocks — estimated to be 65 lakh tonnes in the first four months of 2020 — continued to rot in godowns across India following the lockdown imposed last year.
  • Some has no access of food: Access to food became extremely scarce for the poor, especially daily-wage labourers
  • Disruption in the value chain: Although essential commodities were exempt from movement restrictions, farmers across the country struggled to access markets, resulting in tonnes of food waste. Meanwhile, the middle class’s instinctive hoarding disrupted the value chain, exacerbating the issue.

Case Study- SAFAL Outlet:

  • On average, 18.7 kgs of food was disposed of by one Safal outlet daily.
  • This suggests that an estimated 7.5 tonnes of food are discarded daily across the 400 Safal outlets in Delhi
  • Approximately 84.7% of the total food waste recorded was thrown in the bin, while the rest was either fed to the poor or some animals
  • A significant portion of the food waste bin was still in edible condition
  • If the edible food waste generated by Safal is diverted, an estimated 2000 people could be fed daily.

Steps in solving the issue:

  • Farmer’s role: To stop food waste, changes have to be brought in at every stage of the process – from farmers and food processors to supermarkets and individual customers.
  • Balancing production with demand: The goal of balancing supply and demand should be prioritized. This leads to a reduction in the use of natural resources to produce food that isn’t needed.
  • It needs to start with the chefs first: Chefs are responsible for engineering their menus according to the season, sustainability, and portion size
  • The government and other authorities: They are the spear’s second point. India is a world leader in terms of how quickly we adopted mobile technologies and online, cashless transactions. It will be incredible to see the same spirit of creativity in the food service industry.
  • It is something will come back to many professional Chefs, who has been championing for using locally-sourced produce and helping in cutting down potential wastage

Changes that are need of hour:

  • First change is from home: The astonishing statistics of food waste attributed to households and their irresponsible consumption patterns means that change needs to begin in our own homes.
  • Avoid over cooking on special occasion: Calculated purchasing when buying groceries, minimising single-use packaging wherever possible, ordering consciously from restaurants, and reconsidering extravagant buffet spreads at weddings can go a long way
  • Coimbatore based No Food Waste: At the community level, one can identify and get involved with organisations such as Coimbatore based No Food Waste which aim to redistribute excess food to feed the needy and hungry.
  • A strong sense of judiciousness in how we consume our food is the next logical step: India must attempt to change our “food abundance” mindset to a “food scarcity”
    • Give it to someone else to eat or reuse it so it doesn’t end up in landfills. When it comes to meat and fish, be willing to try nose-to-tail cooking.
    • The roots, shoots, leaves and stalks of most vegetables are perfectly edible.
    • Regional Indian recipes: Surnoli, a Mangalorean dosa made with watermelon rind, and gobhi danthal sabzi, a Punjabi dish made with cauliflower stalks and leaves, are examples of regional cuisine born out of frugality and love for our food. Bengalis follow a root-to-shoot philosophy in their cooking.


  • We Should Support initiatives proactively working towards reducing food waste, such as-
    • Adrish, India’s first chain of zero-waste concept stores, which is focused on getting people to shift from harmful, artificial consumption to an eco-friendly, zero-waste lifestyle
    • Roti bank is one such initiative where people can donate their leftover food into the bank for the needy instead of dumping
  • What more can be done?
    • Developing national food loss and waste reduction policies.
    • To deal with food losses and wastage, national public-private partnerships are being established.
    • Taking on food waste and loss in the supply chain.
    • Changing market social norms so that food waste is no longer considered appropriate


Wastage of food is itself a curse for humankind. Wastage of food is not only wastage of resources but like taking advantage of availability of natural resources. India is land of worship, faith and religion where food is not only eaten for healthy life and better growth but it is worshipped as “Mata Annapurna” but still India is one of the leading nations in wasting food. People know the richness of food but its value is not known yet. NGOs, SHG and govt. All together should come together to make such a platform where people can understand the value of food and leftover food can also go for reuse or to the needy “Roti Bank” is one such initiative.

Mains oriented question:

What are the impacts of waste food on the planet, discuss the reason why there is so much food waste every year, what are the possible steps that can be taken to stop such wastage of food? (250 words)