The Clean Plate Club

The numbers are nothing short of astounding. According to the United Nations, roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption every year simply gets wasted. In a world where global hunger still kills more people every year than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, 1.3 billion tons of food annually is lost through inefficiency, ignorance, and mismanagement. That’s disgusting, if not downright criminal.

The impact of such inefficiency is enormous, costing the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars, including among some of the poorest people in the world who can least afford it. The environmental impact is also significant, and the U.N. estimates that the carbon footprint from “food produced and not eaten,” would rank behind only the United States and China when considered in terms of global annual emissions. The water annually required to produce this food that is never consumed equals three times the volume of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.

The problem of food and agricultural waste besets both the developed and developing world alike, but in starkly different ways as food makes it way from the field or fishery to your fork (or not, rather).

This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.