Which countries waste the most food?

Posted by Ella Buchan on 28 October 2016

Food waste is a global issue, with a third of all food produced lost or wasted at distribution, retail or household level. That’s equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes, according to the UN.

In fact, if food waste were a country, it would rank third behind the USA and China for greenhouse emissions.

North America and Europe are the worst offenders when it comes to household waste, wasting an average of between 95 and 115kg of food per person each year, according to findings by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Here’s a breakdown of how much food is wasted around the globe.


Estimates vary, but statistics suggest between 30 and 40 per cent of food in the US goes to waste, with 34 million tonnes of food thrown away each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That amounts to nearly 200kg of food per person.

In Canada around £18 billion worth of food is wasted per year, 47 per cent of which comes from householders states the Cut Waste, Grow Profit report

This makes North America as a whole the worst food-waste offender, with high expectations and standards identified as a key factor. More than 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets across the continent because they are considered to be not attractive enough to consumers.

Shutterstock via: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH


In the UK around 15 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year, according to WRAP

Nearly half of this is from our homes, with most of the rest lost in manufacturing, retail and the hospitality industry.

Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more campaign is working with partners to address this huge issue, helping households throw less away and save money.


Despite its small size, Norway produces around 361,000 tonnes of food waste per year, according to a report by the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food. 

Around 64 per cent of food wasted is at consumer level, with the average person disposing of 51.1kg per year.

The government is working to counter the problem, for example, by collecting ‘green’ waste separately to create biogas fuel.

Shutterstock via: douwevrs


Government stats show around 14 per cent of all food purchased is thrown away by the Dutch. That’s more than £2.1 billion worth or £135 per person every year. 

A further £1.7 billion worth is discarded by food producers, wholesalers, supermarkets and restaurants.

The government created a ‘No Waste Network’, working with the food industry on ways to reduce food wastage at every stage.


Italians may be known for their love of food, but the amount wasted costs businesses and households more than £10 billion per year, according to the FAO.

The country recently passed a bill aiming to cut this figure by 20 per cent by 2025. The legislation makes it easier for retailers to donate surplus food, offers tax-break incentives and introduces ‘doggy bags’ to those on Italy’s dining scene.

Shutterstock via: pavelgr


Spain produces around 7.7 million tonnes of food waste annually, adding up to £217 worth wasted per person - with more than 45 per cent of that edible, according to FAO figures.

With around 21 per cent of Spanish population living below the poverty line, the government is focusing on developing better food management systems.

In 2014 it launched a ‘More food, less waste’ initiative, involving representatives from all stages of the food chain to focus on why and where waste occurs, improve public awareness and develop new technologies.


Germans throw away 82kg of food per year with 10.3 million tonnes wasted in total, says a study commissioned by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture

It’s estimated chucking edible food away costs the average German more than £200 per year. Fruit and veg accounts for half of all food wasted, followed by pasta and bread.

The government has pledged to halve food waste by 2030.

Shutterstock via: StockCube


According to national campaign FoodWise Australians waste up to 20 per cent of the food they purchase - costing the average household a whopping £605 per year.

The total amount of food thrown out every year is worth more than £4.6 billion, or 523kg per household. Fresh food and leftovers make up 60 per cent of that domestic waste.

FoodWise works with the government to raise awareness and help people learn how to use up leftovers, read food labels and effectively plan meals.


Approximately 7.1 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in France.

Of that figure, 67 per cent is binned by households, 15 per cent by restaurants and 11 per cent by shops.

Earlier this year France passed a law banning supermarkets from throwing out unsold food, forcing them to donate instead.

Shutterstock via: Dora Zett

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