billion worth of food was wasted by Israeli households in 2018
Food Waste in the Household Consumption Sector
In Israel, expenditures on household food consumption is a central component of each household’s monthly expenses, and averages approximately $550 per month per household (not including alcohol, soft drinks, and meals eaten outside of the home), which is about 17% of a household’s total expenditures.
Findings of the 2018 National Food Waste and Rescue Report reveal that Israeli households wasted approximately 1,940 million pounds of food (5), worth approximately $2.2 billion. This waste accounts for approximately 13% of the average household expenditure on food. This means that Israeli households discard food valued at $890 each year, equivalent to one-and-a-half months worth of a household’s food consumption.
On a monthly basis, a household’s financial loss from food waste is $75. Of the loss, fruits and vegetables account for $33, grains and legumes $25, meat, eggs and fish $12 and milk and dairy $5.
מקור: אומדני BDO
Waste from household food consumption is caused by a combination of consumer habits and a culture of abundance. It is also influenced by how food is stored and kept fresh. The value of the food wasted by households is approximately $2.2 billion per year.
According to findings of the Household Food Waste survey (6), three main factors causing food waste in household consumption are:
- Surplus Preparation of Food
Preparing more than is needed, usually excess food that is cooked or prepared unnecessarily and not consumed.
- Expired Food
Food that reaches its expiration date before being fully consumed.
Damaged or Spilled Food
Food that has spoiled due to poor storage, poor cooking or human error.
Other causes of food waste in household consumption are poor preparation or cooking, and excessive purchasing.
6. Household Food Waste survey of 500 households, representative of the Israeli population, conducted by Leket Israel and BDO, with the assistance of Geocartography Research Institute, in January 2019.
It should be noted that one-third of the survey respondents reported that a clearer presentation of expiration dates on food packages would be the principal factor causing them to reduce food waste. Similarly, 80% of the respondents said that they would prefer to buy food from a store that encourages waste reduction or protection of the environment.
Moreover, the survey findings suggest that there is potential for reducing food waste through increased awareness and planning at each stage of household food consumption; this would start with planning before shopping, and continue with informed purchasing appropriate to one’s household needs, proper storage conditions and packaging at home, preparing and cooking suitable quantities, changing eating habits, and reusing surpluses.
Since there is no way of knowing about the level of food safety and hygiene procedures employed in private homes, most of the surplus food in households, except for that food maintained in its original packaging, cannot be rescued. Moreover, from an economic point of view, it is generally not feasible to rescue surplus food from the household sector in a concentrated manner and transfer it to the needy, due to the inherent characteristics of the food including geographical dispersion and relatively small quantities of surplus that exist in each household. Thus, for purposes of the estimates identified in this report, all household food waste is classified as food that cannot be rescued.
Therefore, reducing food loss in the household consumption sector requires decreasing the amount of waste at the source, by changing habits and awareness as well as improving food storage conditions throughout all stages of household food consumption.
Food waste from household consumption is not unique to Israel, and the rates of loss in Israel are comparable to other developed countries. The highest percentage of waste in Israel, as in other Western countries, is from fruits and vegetables, with 23% of fruits and vegetables purchased in Israel being discarded, compared to 28% in the US and 19% in Europe. The relatively high waste of fruits and vegetables is primarily due to their short shelf-life and a households’ failure to adhere to optimal storage conditions.
The rate of loss for meat, fish and dairy products is lower and stands at approximately 8%, in part because these products are more expensive per unit of weight, which creates a higher economic incentive for reducing the loss. The rate of loss for these products are similar to those in Europe, and lower than those in the US.
For grains and legumes, the rate of loss is approximately 14%. The loss for these products stems from the combined result of the short shelf-life of products like bread and pastries, and the relatively long shelf-life of raw grains and legumes.
Based on an international comparison, the amount of food loss in Israel is no different than what exits in European countries. However, the survey found that the subjective feeling of respondents in Israel is that the amount of waste is higher than Europeans’ average subjective sense of food waste (7).
7. According to a survey conducted in EU-27 countries: Household food waste behavior in EU-27 countries, 2015.
In Israel, where expenditure on food is relatively high by international standards (8), food waste contributes to the high cost of living. Food waste impacts the cost of living by leading to excessive expenditures for food while also having an effect on food prices. The overall impact on the cost of living is an additional $1,750 per year per household.
Cost of Living – Surplus expenditure:
Food purchased and discarded as waste directly influences the cost to a household. On average, the annual loss from discarded food was determined to be $890 per household. The costs of waste collection and landfill disposal ultimately come from consumers’ pockets as well, in the form of municipal property taxes and fees, adding an additional $55 expenditure per household to dispose of food waste.
Cost of Living – Higher food prices:
In addition to a households’ direct surplus expenditure for food purchased but not consumed, food wasted in all stages of the value chain prior to household consumption influences the cost of living. In economic terms, the cost of food reflects total production and sales costs at all stages of the value chain: growing, production, packaging, transport and marketing. Therefore, the price of food in supermarkets incorporates the value of food waste in the retail sector. Similarly, the price of wholesale food reflects its loss in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Ultimately, the cost of waste at all stages of the value chain is passed on to the consumer, causing an additional annual cost of $805, in the form of an 11% increase in food prices.
Beyond the direct impact on cost of living and cost of disposal to landfills, other external costs are incurred by the public through the transportation of waste, fuel combustion, road congestion, environmental damage caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, and soil contamination. When organic waste is buried in landfills, it decomposes and emits methane gas, a greenhouse gas whose impact on global warming is twenty-five times greater than that of carbon dioxide.
According to findings of the 2018 National Food Waste and Rescue Report, 1,940 million pounds of household food waste in Israel was disposed of in landfills, causing 280,000 additional trips per year by sanitation trucks, thereby increasing air pollution, road congestion, noise and the risk of accidents. Therefore, beyond the $2.2 billion value of household food waste itself and $140 million for its disposal, additional external costs are also incurred due to the effects of traffic congestion and resulting impacts to the environment.
Several countries have begun efforts to reduce household food waste. These efforts are being made on several levels including: increasing consumer awareness of food wastage, education to prevent loss, the use of technology to reduce waste, taxation and more.
In 2013, the British Food Rescue Organization WRAP: Waste and Resources Action Programme began the “Love Food Hate Waste” project, a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of reducing food loss and helping people take action on the issue. The project included digital publications and community events, such as cooking classes. As part of the project, a dedicated website was created, containing information to help facilitate the reduction of food waste. By way of example, subjects included the calibration of refrigerators to optimal temperatures, and the importance of preparing a shopping list, etc.
WRAP examined the effects of its project in west London over a six-month period from October 2012 to March 2013. At the end of the campaign, the quantity of food waste dropped by 14%, from 5.7 pounds per household in the week before the campaign, to 4.8 pounds per household in the week after the campaign. A cost-benefit analysis of the project revealed that every $1 invested in the campaign resulted in an $8 savings from the reduction of food waste.
Also in Israel, the Postharvest Science of Fresh Produce Department at the Volcani Institute has published guidelines on the preservation of fruits and vegetables for households (9).
Technological means provide another path towards reducing food waste. In the Netherlands, research was conducted on optimal temperatures for extending the shelf life of various food products. By changing the storage temperatures, researchers were able to significantly extend the shelf life of the products.
An additional way to reduce household waste is through taxation. In many countries, what’s known as the “pay as you throw” method has been employed. Countries currently implementing “pay as you throw” include the US, Canada, Austria, Germany, Spain, Japan and others. Through this method, the fee each household pays to the municipality or waste collection agency depends on the amount of unsorted waste it discards. As a result, the “pay as you throw” method encourages both recycling and reduction in food waste, since food accounts for a significant portion of the volume of household waste.