There is one statistic in particular that might make us think when it comes to tidying up after the festivities: roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year.

At the same time, 795 million people around the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016.

While hungry mouths are the most stark example of the cost of food waste, there is a huge financial cost as well. Food losses and waste is estimated to amount to $680bn in industrialised countries around the world, as well as a further $310bn in developing countries.

It is important to distinguish between food loss and waste:

  • Food loss: occurs between production and retail
  • Food waste: occurs between consumption and retail

The proportion of food waste is highest in western countries, while developing countries are more likely to suffer from food loss.

Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food – 222m tons – as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

Per capita waste by consumers is between 95 and 115 kg a year in Europe and North America. This compares to consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, who each throw away only 6-11 kg a year on average.

While agriculture-related waste is consistently high across the world, developing countries in Asia and Africa are likely to see a higher proportion of food wasted at the post-harvest and processing stage, due to lack of infrastructure or poor equipment.

Source: No time for leftovers: The astonishing scale of food waste in the UK and around the world