The type of food wasted also makes a difference in its impact, FAO says. Meat, for example, can make a larger impact on the environment when it is wasted due to the time and energy it takes to produce it. In addition, fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe.
FAO says the best ways to tackle the problem of food wastage will be stopping it before it starts, reusing products within the human food chain and recycling or recovering otherwise wasted food.
The report estimates that a combination of consumer behavior and lack of communication in the supply chain underlies the higher levels of food waste in affluent societies especially. Consumers fail to plan their shopping, overpurchase, or over-react to "best-before-dates," while quality and aesthetic standards lead retailers to reject large amounts of perfectly edible food.
FAO recommends the highest priority in limiting waste be given to balancing food production with demand – meaning avoiding using natural resources to produce un-needed food in the first place.
The report also suggests finding secondary markets such as diversion to livestock feed, for food surpluses.
Lastly, FAO says anaerobic digestion and composting are final efforts to recover energy from un-needed or uneaten foods.
Read the full report here.