Food waste is a multi-pronged problem generator that affects individuals, businesses, and global carbon targets. But within the waste lies a huge opportunity to unlock circular systems, products, and services.
While nearly 10% of the world’s population goes hungry, a reported 1.2 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year before even reaching our shops and markets. An additional 17% of this food is then thrown away by consumers which means a staggering 40% of all food produced goes uneaten and unused worldwide.
Food waste contributes to a multitude of climatic problems. It is responsible for roughly 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally, and accounts for 38% of total energy usage in the global food system. With global demand for food predicted to rise by 50% by 2050, there’s no sign of the problem abating. Farmland, which already occupies 38% of all land globally, is rapidly expanding to meet surging demand, inhibiting biodiversity and further fuelling climate change.
Reducing and repurposing this wasted resource is essential. Fortunately, food waste happens to be a versatile feedstock, applicable across a long list of industries. Some have used it for beauty formulations, others for creating entirely new sources of nourishment, construction materials, interiors, or renewable energy sources. And it's a valuable avenue for innovation. Vanguard Renewables, an operator that takes waste from farms and turns it into renewable electricity and gas, was acquired for USD 700 million in 2022.
The same year, food waste solutions funding reached USD 1.7 billion, awarded to companies such as Toast Ale, a craft-beer company that uses leftover bread to create new drinks, ALT TEX, which creates a polyester alternative from food waste, and Apeel, a company which uses edible coating to prolong the life of fruit and vegetables.