GERMANY, Braunschweig. Around 500,000 t of food waste is generated in the food retail sector every year. However, this represents only 4% of the total amount.
In the entire food retail sector (LEH), including specialty stores in Germany, around 500,000 t of food are sorted out as waste every year. This is shown by surveys conducted by scientists at the Thünen Institute (TI), who analyzed data from 13 retail companies for this purpose. The calculations, which were carried out as part of the "Dialogue Forum Wholesale and Retail to Reduce Food Waste" project, are based on voluntarily provided data on lost sales from 2019. According to the researchers, supermarkets, discounters and hypermarkets generated 290,000 t of waste annually, while other retailers added another 210,000 t.
As project leader Dr. Thomas Schmidt from the Thünen Institute for Market Analysis in Braunschweig explained, the scientists were able to work with accounting results from large companies of various types and with sales figures for the entire sector. Therefore, the extrapolation of food losses in German food retailing is of very high data quality, he said.
At the same time, for the first time in Germany, the entire food retail sector has been mapped, including bakeries, butchers, gas stations and weekly markets, Schmidt emphasized. With the calculated values, the German food retail sector still comes off well in comparison to global food waste: according to a current report by the United Nations (UN), in 2019 a total of around 931 mill. t of all food sold worldwide ended up in the trash. Against this backdrop, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Germany reiterated its call for greater efforts to combat avoidable food losses.
According to the Thünen researchers' projections, sales losses in the German retail sector were highest in 2019 for bread and bakery products due to their high perishability, at around 6%, followed by the fruit and vegetables category at 4.3%. In the case of frozen foods, beverages and dry goods, the loss of sales is much lower at 0.3%, as these products can generally be stored for longer. In their study, the scientists emphasize that although the figure of 500,000 t seems very high, it only accounts for around four percent of the total volume of food waste in Germany. According to the research team, by far the largest quantities of waste, 52%, are generated in private households. They also estimate that around 30% of the total annual losses are either donated to social services or processed into animal feed.
"Food waste is overexploitation of nature and fuels the climate crisis," said WWF agroecology officer Kerstin Weber, referring to the UN figures. She also complains that there is no real transparency in Germany about exactly how much food is wasted or lost in the production, processing, wholesale, retail and out-of-home catering sectors. Weber also accuses Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner of having achieved little two years after presenting the "National Strategy to Reduce Food Waste," especially since the losses have not been quantified since then. The WWF spokesperson therefore calls for concrete reduction targets, binding measures and comprehensible reporting on the voluntary industry agreements to date in the fight against food waste.