Facts and Statistics of Food Waste

Taking action to fight food waste

If you are like many other Canadians, every week, two or three items go almost directly from your grocery cart to the compost or garbage bin.

In Canada, it is estimated that $31 billion worth of food ended up in landfills or composting sites in 2015, a phenomenon that has serious environmental, economic and social impacts.

With regard to the environmental impact, landfills and avoidable food waste are catastrophic. In a nutshell, landfills create additional pollution and release greenhouse gases (CO₂). The decomposition of organic matter also creates methane, a seriously harmful greenhouse gas, and overwhelms composting facilities and landfills. According to the FAO, one tonne of food waste emits 5.6 tonnes of CO₂. Globally, food waste produces the equivalent of 3.3 gigatonnes of CO₂ and ranks as the third top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after China and the United States.

Economically, consumers and the private sector will benefit significantly from efforts to tackle food waste. For consumers, reducing food waste could help them save hundreds of dollars. According to some studies, it could generate savings of $700 per year. Preventing food waste could also cut food costs by 10% or more. For businesses, the losses incurred through the supply chain exceed the combined margins of the companies involved. All groups from farm gate to plate would benefit from a collaborative approach to preventing food loss that would enable them to collectively increase their profits and save.

From a social perspective, while food waste and food insecurity are not intimately linked, it is nonetheless absurd to waste so much food at a time when hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country are affected by food insecurity. Here are some figures:

  • 852,137 Canadians use food banks every month.

  • 35.8% (305,366) of food bank users are children.

  • In total, every year, 1.6 million households are unable to afford healthy food.

  • According to 2015 data, use of food banks has gone up by 26% compared to 2008, and by 1.3% compared to 2014.

  • More than 4 million people cannot feed themselves properly each day.

Even though fighting food waste is not the main solution to the problem of food insecurity in Canada, facilitating the recovery of unsold food and donations by retailers could certainly allow us to help the people who need it most. Several initiatives across the country have shown that to be the case, like one in my riding: Moisson Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec works with supermarkets to recover unsold food, which is placed in bins and refrigerated or frozen at the store. The organization visits participating supermarkets twice a week and uses the food to help people in need. It achieves this while fully respecting quality control, food traceability, and cold chain requirements.

I believe that food waste is everyone’s business, but I also believe that the federal government must show leadership on this file, as other governments have. For that reason, I introduced a bill that calls on the government to develop a national strategy to reduce food waste in Canada and establish a national food waste awareness day.

This bill follows up on Motion No. 499, which I introduced in the winter of 2014 and which was meant to be a wake-up call for parliamentarians and a way to raise awareness, stimulate debate, support existing initiatives and perhaps encourage new ones. Today, I believe that we must go even farther. We must demand that the government take concrete action to tackle this scourge.

Here is an informative video that was created in support of my motion. The statistics are not the most recent but the content is still relevant.