Governments across the globe are being urged to do more to cut food waste in a bid to save between $120 billion (£77.8bn) and $300 billion (£194.5bn) every year.
A new report suggests it must be reduced by between 20% – 50% to achieve the savings and cut emissions by 7% globally – or 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent every year.
One third of all food produced in the world ends up as waste, with a value of more than $400 billion (£259bn) a year.
The study by the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found the figure could rise to $600 billion (£389bn) as the global middle class expands in the next 15 years.
It said while Britain is doing its bit – having reduced avoidable food waste by 21% and saved £13 billion between 2007 and 2012 – around 12 million tonnes are still wasted, 75% of which could have been avoided.
The report suggests practical changes such as lowering the average temperature of refrigerators or designing better packaging could make a “considerable difference” in preventing spoilage.
It identifies significant opportunities to improve economic performance and tackle climate change by reducing the amount of food wasted at various stages in the supply chain – in agriculture, transport, storage and consumption.
Helen Mountford, Global Programme Director for the New Climate Economy said reducing food waste is “good for the economy and good for the climate”.
She added: “Less food waste means greater efficiency, more productivity and direct savings for consumers. Reducing food waste is also a great way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. These findings should serve as a wakeup call to policymakers around the world.”
ELN has contacted the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) for a statement.