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A Food Waste Elimination Strategy

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CDMX Road to 2030 -  A Food Waste Elimination Strategy.

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Source: FastCompany

Even though around one third of food produced for human consumption is lost, Food Waste is often the most overlooked component of the food system. Food Wastage is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food per year. And it is not only food that gets wasted; in order to produce the 1/3 of total wasted food, around 250 km3 of water are also wasted. In addition, around 3.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent of Green House Gasses (GHG) are emitted into the atmosphere every year[1]. Wasted food also represents losses in resources such as land, energy, and inputs. The total cost of the current rate of food waste has been calculated to be at around US$205 billion. The whole value chain is seldom taken into consideration when taking the decision to throw something away.

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                Fig 1. 2015 Global Food Waste by Type - FAO

The World Bank’s Urban Development department has warned that business as usual practices will lead to an increase to at least 2.2 billion tons of waste by 2025. This would increase the financial strain by about US$170 billion in less than 10 years to around US$375 billion with the sharpest cost increase in developing countries[2].

Mexico’s currently wastes food at a 37% of production per year. That is equivalent to around 7.4 million people facing food insecurity. In other words, close to 5% of the Mexican population are hungry due to lack of policies, education, and infrastructure to combat food wastage. The Mexican Environmental Agency only spends MXN 41 million in food waste collection out of MXN 3 billion spent in total waste collection; this represents only 1.3% of total expenditure on food waste specific disposal.

In Mexico City (CDMX) alone, the average daily food wastage amounts to ~13 thousand tons per day, or roughly 5 million tons per year. The city generates around 12% of the total volume of food and organic wastage in the whole of Mexico, only second to the Center and Northern regions of the country[3].

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                       Fig 2. Organic Waste Gnerated (thousand tons) per region – SEMARNAT 2012

In order to reduce food wastage, three key targets underpinned by SDG2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture- must be addressed:

  • 2.1 - by 2030 end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
  • 2.4 - by 2030 ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters, and that progressively improve land and soil quality.
  • 2.a - increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development, and plant and livestock gene banks to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular in least developed countries.

The following strategies are proposed in order to start tackling the spiraling problem of Food Waste in Mexico City.

  1. Legislation and Education: A key first step has already been taken. During 2016, the ‘Altruistic Food Donation Bill’ was passed, allowing for restaurants, households, and food suppliers to donate food that would previously go to waste. This, however, has not been accompanied by a successful communicated campaign. It was only reported in 15% of newspapers with higher circulation. There is no clear strategic pathway to what has to be done next. There are currently over 400,000 food-related MSMEs in Mexico City[4]. According to regulations, they must adhere to public health and sanitation laws, and although organic matter separation is a part of this it is not clearly followed. This problem stems from the lack of education provided in Mexico regarding food systems.

There are challenges to be tackled both in the supply chain and on the consumer side of the Mexico City food system.

Supply Chain: There is a need to upgrade the way business is currently done. Most smaller scale farmers rely on their crops for nutrition and future income, and although most of agricultural production in Mexico is not considered subsistence farming, a substantial amount of food wastage can be eliminated through the following measures:

  1. Providing best-practice crop management – no-till farming, zero waste methods, precision agriculture, to eliminate pre-harvest losses.
  2. Invest in providing farmers with up-to-date tools for crop management – this would include all the stages of the agricultural value chain.
  3. Improve and maintain infrastructure.
  4. Provide inventory management training as well as consumer-specific training in order to be able to correctly predict demand.
  5. Provide clear monitoring and evaluation criteria, as well as the perfection of enforceability of these norms.
  6. Improve packaging standards in order to comply with international standards. Adopt best practices from other geographies.
  7. Create better market integration opportunities for small-scale farmers.

Consumer: Awareness needs to be built in order to shift consumer patterns to reduce levels of food waste. Recycling, composting, and disposal best practices need to be adopted from those with higher indices.[pic 4]

  1. Foster the exchange of best practices not only locally but internationally – European countries have developed secondary markets for nearly-perished food, the US has established Food Rescuing networks, and
  2. Promote culture shock campaigns explaining both the benefits of establishing food waste norms, as well as illustrating the drawbacks of business as usual within the food system
  3. Provide constant education to consumers on the importance and proper care and handing of food.

Without the combination of these two strategies food wastage will continue to be a problem. It will be necessary for both the supply side and demand side to cooperate and evolve together. These shocks will be hard to achieve, but with the proper mechanisms in place such as Food Rescue initiatives and Incentive-Based Recycling these can be attained.



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