Food waste and water

Running along the River Thames and it’s marathon number 3. Today was very special because I was joined by Dr. Liz Goodwin of the WRI. She ran 12.3km with me to represent SDG 12.3 which is, of course, sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Photo: Kelvin Trautman

Photo: Kelvin Trautman

I learned today that if we stopped all food waste we would save 18% of the world’s water. 18%!

All food waste: that means not throwing out food at all. The issue of reducing food loss and waste is outlined beautifully in this WRI podcast with Tesco CEO Dave Lewis - have a listen. We’re going to share some helpful, practical tools to help you curb food waste during this journey, but in the meantime, here are some facts from the WRI team so you can get an idea of how huge the problem is:


  • Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year (FAO 2011).

  • When food is thrown away, the water used to produce that food is also wasted. (Lipinski et al. 2013).

  • Roughly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, which equates to 45 trillion gallons of water. This represents nearly a quarter (24%) of all water used for agriculture. Agriculture as a sector is responsible for 70% of all global fresh water use (Lipinski et al. 2013).

  • Fruits and vegetables are among some of the most wasted foods, especially in developed countries.

  • Food loss and waste costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion every year (FAO 2011).

United Kingdom

  • 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to afford to eat (FAO 2016).

  • 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK (WRAP 2016).

  • 250,000 tonnes of that food waste is still edible, which is enough for 650 million meals (WRAP 2018).

  • The most commonly wasted foods in the UK are potatoes, bread, milk, bananas, and salad (WRAP 2009).

  • The UK’s annual food waste is worth GBP 15 million, equivalent to GBP 470 per person.

All food we waste is water we are throwing away. A quarter of all the water used in agriculture is lost because we then waste the food it was used to create. We need to spread the message that food waste is not acceptable - that we can all do better. Meet Dr. Liz Goodwin in this video on my Facebook page and join our community of water conscious citizens!