Reducing food waste in Israel requires national effort, report says
The estimated cost of food waste was around $ 6 billion in 2020, and a total of 2.5 tons, about half of which can be saved, according to Leket Israel
Israelis waste huge amounts of food every year, according to the annual national food waste and rescue report for 2020 released this week by Leket Israel, the country’s leading food rescue organization. The report was written in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and sets out a very complex problem that requires a thorough response.
The consequences of massive food waste are vast, according to the findings. From the impact of climate change to the cost of living, there is no doubt that change is needed, and needed quickly.
Reducing food waste benefits the environment and the economy, while also benefiting society by reducing poverty and inequalities.
The estimated cost of food waste in Israel was around $ 6 billion in 2020, and a total of 2.5 tonnes, about half of which can be saved, according to the report.
Israel is not unique in its food waste tendencies. Most developed countries waste food on the same scale. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that a third of the world’s food production is wasted each year.
Food is wasted throughout all stages of production, from growing crops to selling them in supermarkets. And it’s not just the private consumer throwing away expired cheese that could still be eaten or the less appealing aging cucumber.
Israel’s food expenditure rate is considered relatively high among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, with families spending 17-20% of the food basket on food. In addition, Israel has one of the highest poverty rates in the OECD, making food security a major problem and food waste to be tackled.
“Food insecurity in Israel has increased, so there are populations suffering from a shortage,” Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel, told The Media Line. “The amount of waste is unimaginable, there is no room for such waste. We throw away twice as much food as is needed to close this gap. “
Food waste also has a major impact on the environment. The cost of producing excess amounts of food that is ultimately wasted is estimated to be over $ 1 million. Land is needed to cultivate and store crops, precious square kilometers the country needs to cope with a major housing crisis. The equivalent of 56 Olympic-size pools of water are wasted every year by a country with an arid climate and drought every few years. Landfills for waste pollute the soil and also emit gases that pollute the air, including harmful methane. Crops are also wasting valuable land that could be used for parks, open spaces or new apartments.
It all adds up to excessive energy use, land use and waste of natural resources.
Food production plays a major role in the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions, which the world aims to reduce. Reducing food waste is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and this food waste is believed to be responsible for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“It all adds up to excessive energy use, land use and waste of natural resources,” Kroch said.
All of this contributes to rising temperatures around the world. The collective effort to limit global increasing temperature was at the center of the recent Glasgow climate change conference.
The complexity of food waste and rescue has prompted Kroch and others to call for a major government plan to tackle the problem.
“There is no comprehensive national plan, there is no plan that directly addresses saving food,” Kroch told The Media Line. “This is an urgent and strategic issue at the national level.”
Food rescue must be a national policy and the solution must be integrated, experts say.
“This has not been defined by the state as a national crisis that must be urgently addressed,” Prof. Ofira Ayalon, an expert in environmental policy and waste management at the University of Haifa. “There is a wide range of possibilities with regulatory and informational tools that can be used. “
“The report clearly shows that the problem only gets worse with each year, there is no improvement in any part of the supply chain,” she said.
Founded in 2003, Leket has been at the forefront of saving food surpluses in Israel. Along with other non-governmental organizations trying to prevent waste, it depends on philanthropists and receives no state funding.
“When the government doesn’t invest the money, it means the state isn’t really interested in the issue,” Kroch said. ” This is very serious. I cannot save everything that can be saved, we need the support of the government. “
“There is growing interest, but I don’t know how much they are prepared to do,” he added. “It takes a lot of money and I don’t think it’s a priority right now.”
Food waste is a multi-faceted problem that cannot be addressed by the Department of Environmental Protection alone.
“It’s not just their territory,” Ayalon said. “For years the ministry has failed to deal with waste and over the past two decades has failed to make any substantial or radical change in the matter.”
It was not defined by the state as a national crisis that must be urgently addressed.
Ayalon criticizes the ministry, saying that although he was a partner in drafting the reports, there was no substantive action.
“They don’t have a work plan and haven’t been active in the legislature,” she said. “Relations do not create politics and there is no politics. “
There is legislation to tackle some aspects of food waste, but the problem is far from resolved, as the latest report shows.
Leket takes care of the rescue of fresh agricultural products. It also offers nutrition and consumption workshops that aim to teach people to choose products and to consume them for longer.
With climate change more and more on the agenda, there is more openness to tackle the problem of food waste.
“People are hungry for information and want to know how they can help, even on an individual level. But there is no leadership on these issues and it is clearly lacking, ”Kroch said.
“There is so much to do,” Ayalon said. “There is legislation, incentives, sanctions, taxation of individual waste, it is very complex.
Calls for a single body to focus on a national effort have yet to be heard.
Israel’s innovative tech sector could play a major role in the effort. It is also important to educate the public to consume and waste less. But for all of this to happen, a decision to tackle food waste at the national level must be made. Israel is not there yet, experts say.
So far, the government’s actions, or lack thereof, leave little hope that next year’s Leket report will show any improvement.