What a waste!

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Volunteering at Leket Israel Logistics Center. Photo credit Leket Israel Archive

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Leket have released the Fifth Annual Food Waste and Rescue Report for Israel.

The report, which was written and edited by BDO, presents a detailed model estimating the environmental impact and the environmental costs of food waste, as well as the effect on the Israeli economy. It also shows how Israel compares to other countries around the world on this issue.

“Food waste has cost Israel’s economy NIS 20.3 billion (ZAR 93 billion) in 2019, on top of an environmental cost of NIS 3.2 billion (ZAR 14.7 billion). This money could have financed one-fifth of the State’s COVID-19 aid budget. The financial and environmental costs of food loss along the entire value chain end up being paid directly out of the pockets of Israeli consumers and taxpayers, and negatively affect the cost of living. Specifically, this year, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of paramount importance to formulate a national plan for food rescue” explains Chen Herzog, Chief Economist, BDO.

Food waste is responsible for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions in Israel, which is equivalent to GHG emissions from 1.6 million cars per year – about half the number of cars in Israel. Minimising the extent of food waste in Israel will significantly help the national effort to meet the greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to which the Israeli government committed in the Paris Agreement, signed at the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2015.

Food waste accounts for about one-third of all household waste in Israel. The total direct external economic cost for treating garbage originating from food waste in Israel in 2019 was approximately NIS 1.2 billion (ZAR 5.5 billion).

Findings from the report reveal that an average Israeli family throws away NIS 3,300 (ZAR 15 000) worth of food per year, equivalent to a month and a half of household food expenditures. Food waste at the consumption stage is responsible for about 55% of the total environmental costs of food waste.

The effects of food waste at all stages of the value chain increases food prices by 11%, and the loss of food impairs productivity in the economy due to production and labour loss.

According to BDO estimates, COVID-19 will cause an additional 145 000 people to become food insecure. The crisis will also exacerbate food insecurity for the 1.87 million people who were already suffering before the pandemic. This emphasises the urgency of food rescue, which can help minimise the economic damage from the crisis and decrease the environmental costs imposed on the Israeli economy as a consequence of food produced, but not consumed.

About Leket Israel: Serving as Israel’s largest food rescue organisation, in 2019, Leket Israel rescued 2.2 million cooked meals from IDF army bases, hotels catering companies, and restaurants and 15.7 thousand tons of agricultural produce worth NIS 209 million (US $61 million). All this rescued food was redistributed to 175 000+ needy people weekly through Leket Israel’s network of 200 non-profit agency partners throughout Israel. For more information, please visit: www.leket.org/en.

For a local perspective, in South Africa, 10 million tonnes of food goes to waste every year. That’s a third of the 31 million tonnes produced annually in South Africa. The wasted embedded water would fill over 600 000 Olympic swimming pools — a massive waste for SA, the 30th driest country on the planet. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has valued this loss at R61.5 billion.

Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
Download the Dec/Jan issue PDF here.

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