How Composting Can Reduce Our Impact on the Planet

Human Wrongs Watch

27 July 2021 (UNEP)* — Every year, across the world, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is either lost or wasted, says the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Food Waste Index.


Unsplash/freepik / 27 Jul 2021

With world hunger on this rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to reduce food waste is becoming increasingly urgent.

A report published in July 2021 by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies shows that one-tenth of the global population – as many as 811 million people – were undernourished in 2020, up 118 million from 2019.

In addition to exacerbating hunger and food insecurity, food loss and waste contribute to the three planetary crises that threaten our collective future – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

But while loss and waste occur across the entire food system, individuals and households are not powerless. In fact, with almost 570 million tonnes of loss and waste produced in homes, their action is critical.

Guidelines issued by UNEP and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) show the practice of composting is one of the best options for managing organic waste while also reducing environmental impacts.

Proper composting of the organic waste we generate in our daily lives – inedible or unused food – can reduce the dependence on chemical fertilizers, help recover soil fertility, and improve water retention and the delivery of nutrients to plants. 

More broadly, by reducing food waste, composting also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change. Food loss and waste generate an estimated 8-10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions while using land and water resources increasingly put pressure on biodiversity.

“Our relationship with nature is unbalanced,” explains Doreen Robinson, UNEP Wildlife Chief. “Humans are continuously taking and discarding, and nature is continuously giving.”

Instead, she says, “we need to apply circular thinking in which life is sustained and things are continuously repurposed.”

Envisaging a global transformation, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres will convene the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021. Supporting the transition toward food systems that provide net positive impacts on nutrition, the environment and livelihoods, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a contributor to the One Planet Network Sustainable Food Systems Programme, leading the development of a guideline for collaborative policymaking and improved governance; and a member of the Transformative Partnership Platform, informing donors and policy makers and fostering innovation.

UNEP is also the custodian of the food waste element of Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, committing member states to halve their per capita food waste at the consumer retail level; and is currently developing the Food Waste Index, a global food waste databank enabling countries to track their progress towards the Goal.


2021 Human Wrongs Watch

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