Food loss and waste

Globally, there is growing consensus that we need to take action to address food loss and waste. Food that is produced but not eaten ends up in landfills and creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

When food is wasted, all the resources used to produce it are also wasted. By reducing food loss and waste in Canada, we can also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Causes of food loss and waste

There are many causes of food loss and waste.  Some examples include:

  • stocking too much food that spoils before it can be sold or eaten
  • storage or packaging that is not able to stop food spoilage or contamination
  • disposing food scraps in the garbage instead of collection bins for organic waste

Solutions for reducing food loss and waste

Everyone has a role to play in addressing food loss and waste, including businesses, consumers and governments. 

Long description 

This image illustrates the hierarchy of solutions to address food loss and waste.  The most preferred solution is to reduce it by improving our operations and practices to reduce the amount we generate.  The second best solution is to recover it by donating surplus food to people that need it or by manufacturing animal feed or other food products from it.  The third best solution is to recycle it to create ingredients for products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and fertilizers, or produce biodiesel from waste oils or renewable natural gas through anaerobic digestion, or create compost from it.  The least preferred solution is to dispose of it in landfills or incinerators.

Here are some ways you can help to increase the sustainability of our food system:

Reduce:  Be sure to plan your meals before you shop so that you only buy what you can consume before it spoils and ends up in the garbage

Recover:  Donate to food programs that help people in your community

Recycle:  Participate in organic waste collection programs or start a composter in your backyard and use the Greenhouse Gas Calculator for Waste Management to estimate the reduced emissions that result

What we are doing

Canada, Mexico, and the United States are working together under the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to address food loss and waste in North America.  Results from this work include:

In Canada, we are actively working to reduce food loss and waste here at home:

  • Under the Strategy on Short-lived Climate Pollutants, Canada committed to consult on strategies to reduce avoidable food waste in Canada, which will help to reduce methane emissions from Canadian landfills.
  • The Food Policy for Canada is a roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system for Canada. One initiative under the Food Policy, focused on reducing food waste, includes a challenge to fund the most innovative food waste reduction proposals in food processing, grocery retail, and food service – as well as leadership by the federal government to cut its own food waste.  
  • In February 2019, we brought together experts from industry, government and the not-for-profit sectors to share ideas and discuss opportunities for measuring and reducing food loss and waste across the food supply chain.  Read our summary report for the workshop.
  • Read our report: Taking Stock of Food Loss and Waste Reduction in Canada.

Learn more

Key Canadian tools and resources to help you prevent food loss and waste are listed below.

Contact us

Waste Reduction and Management Division                                                                                                                              Environment and Climate Change Canada                                                                                                                                            351 St. Joseph, Place Vincent Massey                                                                                                                                                      Gatineau QC  K1A 0H3

Email: ec.ges-dechets-ghg-waste.ec@canada.ca

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