A Bangladeshi wastes 65kg of food each year on an average, which is much higher than what a person wastes in such rich countries as Russia (33kg), the United States of America (59kg) and Ireland (55kg), a UN report has revealed.
Every year 10.62 million tonnes of food are wasted by households in Bangladesh, according to the report published on 4 March.
As the report puts it, the amount of food wasted by a person in a home per year is 61kg in New Zealand, 50kg in the Netherlands, 50kg in Belgium, and 39kg in Austria.
The study, entitled "Food Waste Index Report 2021", included the most comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis and modelling ever done, and offered a methodology for countries to accurately measure loss. It was produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WRAP, a UK-based non-government organisation.
The UN research estimated that 931 million tonnes of food or 17% of total food available to consumers worldwide were wasted in 2019 in homes, institutions, retail outlets and restaurants.
Homes are responsible for most of the food waste as 61% of total food waste was generated from households, while 26% was from food services and 13% from retails.
The food discarded per capita in homes was 74kg on average across the world, where households in lower middle-income countries wasted 91kg, upper middle-income countries wasted 76kg and high-income countries wasted 79kg per person each year.
Food waste is regarded as a key problem in rich countries.
But the study mentioned that household per capita food waste generation is found to be broadly similar across country income groups, suggesting that action on food waste is equally relevant in high, upper-middle and lower-middle income countries.
Food waste in South Asian homes
Indian households waste 50kg of food per person per year, which is the least among South Asian countries, followed by Bangladesh.
In the Maldives, 71kg of food is wasted per person each year at the household level.
Afghan households waste 82kg of food per person per year, which is the highest in the region followed by 79kg in Nepal and Bhutan, 76kg in Sri Lanka, and 74kg in Pakistan.
It should be noted that when food is wasted, all the resources associated with its production – water, land, energy, labour and capital – are also wasted.
Moreover, the disposed of waste in landfills causes greenhouse gas emissions.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, "If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste."
"Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession," added Andersen.
The Food Waste Index considers total food waste, meaning both the edible and inedible share of food items.
The UNEP will launch regional working groups to aid countries' capacities to measure and record food waste in time for the next round of SDG 12.3 reporting in late 2022. It will also support these countries as they develop national baselines to track progress towards the 2030 goal, and design strategies to prevent food waste.
Dr Md Saidur Rahman, professor at the Department of Agriculture Economics of Bangladesh Agriculture University, Mymensingh, said food wastage is basically happening because of a lack of awareness among people irrespective of rich and poor.
"Food is mainly wasted at marriage functions or restaurants. We also see post-harvest wastages of fresh vegetables and fruits during transportation and storage," he also said.
Referring to an incident that a group of Indian politicians faced opposition from local people when they tried to throw away leftover food during their visit to Germany. The people told them, "Food belongs to society, you cannot just buy and dump it. You have to pay a fine for it."
The professor said this incident gives a message that Bangladesh needs to enact a law to rein in food waste on a whim. "Even if a single person is fined for wasting food, it will be a lesson for all," Prof Saidur said.
Food-laden trucks should get priority on roads. A lesson should be incorporated into textbooks to raise awareness about food wastage right from childhood, he added.