How to tackle food waste?

Reducing food losses and waste is essential in a world where the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise since 2014, and tons and tons of edible food are lost and/or wasted every day.

Globally, around 14 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted.

The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, which was on 29th of September is an opportunity to call to action both the public and the private sector, to prioritise actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste towards restoring and building back better and resilient-ready, food systems.

Food waste is one of the biggest waste streams in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the amount of food waste generated continues to grow over the last years. Like in other countries globally, food waste in Bosnia and Herzegovina contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions, while a significant volume of agricultural water and land are used for producing food that ultimately goes uneaten. At the same time, more than 20% of the population are estimated to be living at or below the absolute poverty line. There is no exact data on the volume of food waste from various sources, while the overall strategic and regulatory framework does not provide enabling environment for systemically addressing this challenge. The need to prevent and reduce food waste, while ensuring the safety of the food and feed chain, is a subject of growing societal, economic and environmental interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with direct linkage to achieving the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12. 

Within the Czech-UNDP Partnership modality Expertise on Demand, Czech expert on food waste Soňa Houžvová implemented an expertise to set in place the tools to measure food waste in Bosnia and Herzegovina and identify feasible approaches for the way forward in tackling reduction of food waste and better management of different types of organic waste.  

Today Mrs. Houžvová will talk about her experience from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ways we all can support less food waste in the world

  • How is the current food waste situation in BiH?

Food waste is under the spotlight relatively shortly in BiH. However, it looks like there are more and more efforts focusing on food waste prevention like UNDP BiH activities, Food lab platform, or research on food waste in households. So far there is no food bank in the country. On the other side, there are “soup kitchens” preparing meals also from donated food for poor people. It is estimated that 500 tons of food waste are daily landfilled in the country, which is the source of GHGs. At the same time, about 19 % of the population of BiH is estimated to be living below the poverty line. The country is in the phase of collecting information about food waste to be able to apply effective measures in practice. 

  • How does BiH compare to other industrialized countries in terms of food waste

Most Western European countries have quite a long history of food waste issues. So there are very nice examples of good practices, tools, and measures to be adopted. There are statistics saying that in developing countries, 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels. Measuring food waste at each stage of the food supply chain is missing. According to research, there is 145 kg of food waste per household each year and 16 million tonnes of food waste at the national level (Djekic et al., 2019).

  • Where does most food waste in BiH come from? (e.g. restaurants, grocery stores, or households)?

Generally, most food-wasting occurs at the level of the household. Based on data from UNEP Food Waste Index 2021, food waste by sector worldwide refers to 61 % from households, 26 % from food service, and 13 % from retail. However, there are statistics saying that in developing countries losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels. The recent research (Vaško et al., 2020) focused on food waste in households in BiH confirms there is only 0,5 kg of food waste per week due to the traditional way of life and low living standard.

  • After you conducted the Expertise on Demand, what was the most important part of Food Waste strategy for Sarajevo? Can it be also applied in other places such as Czech Republic?

The city of Sarajevo has focused on food waste prevention and reduction, which is great. The assignment describes measures and activities that might be realized. Establishing a food bank is highly recommended for tackling food waste generally. It would be nice to see a Food bank in Sarajevo one day. Good practices of food banks can be seen in many European countries. Their impact is enormous.  In the Czech Republic, there are already 15  food banks. Furthermore, according to the law, there is an obligation for food retailers, and shops over 400 m2 to donate food still safe for consumption to food banks. This can be an inspiration for BiH. 

  • What are some examples of successful food waste reduction or composting initiatives you’ve encountered in BiH or elsewhere?

There are many activities and measures focusing on food waste prevention worldwide that are effective, funny, and motivating for the public. Very popular are events and happenings like Disco Soup or Disco Salad, or the concept of feasts in public places usually named “A feast for thousand”, or “Feeding 1000”. The original founder of this idea and campaign is the global organization Slow food which operates in more than 160 countries. In 2018 event “Disco Salad” has occurred also in Prague where local NGO Zachraň jídlo invited a famous chef to supervise an event and prepare three types of salads from wonky fruit and vegetables. Composting of 90 kg scraps was ensured by local NGO Kokoza, o.p.s  

  • What is the number one thing individuals can do to reduce their food waste?

There are several practical tips on how we can prevent throwing food like better planning of our meals, reasonable shopping, storing food correctly, understanding ‘use by’ vs ‘best before’ dates, use what we have for cooking. However, it is important to realize all the negative consequences of food waste, which are social, economic, and ecological. Once we are food-wasting, we are throwing out our money and human resources. Furthermore, we are contributing to climate change and wasting scarce resources such as land, energy, and water.

About the Czech-UNDP Partnership – Challenge Fund and Expertise on Demand

Through the Challenge Fund and Expertise on Demand, the Czech-UNDP Partnership for SDGs brings innovative solutions from the Czech Republic’s private sector, NGOs, universities, state institutions, research centres and individuals to tackle specific developmental challenges in the priority countries. The implementation of projects and expertises is financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.