HomeFeatured NewsFood waste: Crossroads in understanding scourge to reduce its financial impact

Food waste: Crossroads in understanding scourge to reduce its financial impact

Food waste is a real problem in Tunisia. For a Tunisian family of five, it represents a financial loss of around TND 85 per month, which rises to TND 340 during the month of Ramadan.

Faced with this situation, it is imperative to understand the phenomenon in order to combat its effects more effectively, says Ridha Abbes, co-author of a report on the state of food waste in Tunisia.

Food waste refers to any food intended for human consumption that is spoiled, lost or thrown away at the various stages of the food chain: production, collection, processing, distribution and consumption.

Based on a survey carried out by the Institut national de la consommation (INC), the report, presented at the Tunis City of Sciences by the association Racines et développement durable (RDD), states that the main food products wasted by Tunisian households are bread, with a waste rate of 15.7%, cereal products (10.2%), vegetables (6.5%), fruit (4.2%), dairy products (2.3%) and meat (1.9%).

“Food loss and waste are becoming increasingly important. It contributes to reducing food availability, accelerating environmental degradation and increasing the need for food imports.

Whether for a company or an individual, food loss and waste represent a loss of production or purchase and, as such, a financial loss, all the more so as food is the first item of expenditure for a Tunisian household, with a rate of 30.1%,” added Abbes.

“If we look at the cost of food waste, estimated by the INC in 2016 at 17 dinars/person/month, we can say that food waste represents on average around 12% of food expenditure and 3.6% of Tunisians’ total expenditure”, he added.

Waste weighs heavily on the state budget

For his part, Ali Abaab, an expert and co-author of the report, pointed out that “waste weighs heavily on the state budget, as a large proportion of the wasted food is subsidized and often imported in foreign currency: around 22% of the subsidies allocated to flour for making bread are wasted.

According to the same INC study, “wasted bread costs the national community about TND 100 million, or about 22.2% of the TND 450 million allocated by the state budget to subsidize bread flour in 2017”.

The report also addressed the environmental impact of food waste, stating that “it affects the environmental and carbon footprint through excessive consumption of natural resources and degradation of ecosystems.

It contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, disruption of biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems, overconsumption of water resources, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity.

Most wasted food is thrown away as waste, which is a significant source of pollution, especially with current waste management practices characterized by low collection rates and almost automatic recourse to landfill”.

Adopting circular approaches

In terms of recommendations, the authors of the study believe that “the agri-food sector and consumers need to adopt circular approaches that prioritize sustainable and healthy diets for all, while minimizing waste”.

“In this context, we need to start by understanding the phenomenon and quantifying the level of food waste at all stages and among all economic operators and consumers, and mobilize the largest possible number of stakeholders to define and implement actions to reduce waste”.

For Nabil Hamdi, Director of the Sustainable Cities and Towns Program and focal point for the SWITCHMED program, the fight against food waste requires the introduction of a legal framework to deal with the issue, including a surcharge on food waste, the creation of an incentive framework to combat food waste, and specific mechanisms to promote waste recycling.

He also recommended the promotion of start-ups active in the development of solutions to combat food waste and recycle waste, the use of artificial intelligence and technological solutions to raise awareness and involve citizens in this fight, and the implementation of the action plan to combat food waste in the municipality of Tunis and its replication in other regions.

He also called for raising awareness among pupils and students by installing “food waste meters” in schools and universities to weigh leftovers, and for training sessions for retailers and consumers on techniques to combat food waste, in collaboration with the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA).


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