Food loss and waste (FLW) is an increasingly important issue in Canada, Mexico and the United States, where close to 170 million tonnes of food produced for human consumption are lost and wasted—across the food supply chain, including in pre-harvest and consumer sectors—each year. Food waste in landfills is a significant source of methane gas—a greenhouse gas (GHG) 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. FLW also has environmental and socio-economic impacts, including the inefficient use of natural resources, economic loss, biodiversity loss, and public health issues.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) established the North American Initiative on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery as part of its Green Economy and Climate Change portfolios. This white paper seeks to enhance the North American capacity to reduce disposal of food waste in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector. It proposes comprehensive strategies to address source reduction of FLW, and for food rescue and recovery, at all stages of the food supply chain—from post-harvest food production, processing and distribution, to consumer-facing foodservice and retail sectors. Following an analysis of the current state, causes and impacts of FLW in North America, this paper identifies opportunities to reduce FLW through source reduction, and food rescue or recovery of surplus food. Estimates of FLW quantities, along with associated environmental and socio-economic impacts, are also provided. The analysis, opportunities and suggestions presented in this paper are a useful reference for the ICI sector, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as they develop policies, strategies and initiatives to address FLW in North America.