By Umberto Bacchi
ROME, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - For every dollar spent on reducing food waste, companies save an average $14, according to a study published on Tuesday that also showed consumers can save money by shrinking their bin bags.
The study analysed 700 restaurants, food manufacturers, retailers and hospitality companies in 17 countries and found 99 percent of them made money from investing in curbing waste.
"There are still too many inside business and government who are unaware or unsure about the kind of impact they can have by reducing food loss and waste," Dave Lewis, chief executive of Britain's biggest retailer, Tesco, said in a call with journalists.
Throwing out food wastes the water, energy and fuel needed to grow, store and transport it, campaigners say, while discarded food ends up in landfills where it rots, releasing harmful greenhouse gases.
Companies analysed in the study reduced food waste through measures like improving refrigeration and switching to more efficient packaging to extend products' shelf-life.
In return they gained additional income from selling products made with food saved from the bin, benefited from lower waste management costs and saved money not buying food that would have otherwise been lost.
The study showed how a British-based food manufacturer achieved a more than 300-fold return on investment by running an audit that revealed seven percent of the food it bought remained in bulk containers after they were emptied. "The clear business case should swing people to act," Lewis, who also chairs Champions 12.3, the campaign group that commissioned the first-of-its kind study, added in a statement. With the average U.S. family of four spending roughly $1,500 a year on food that is thrown away, cutting waste is also a boon for consumers' pockets, the study said.
Between 2007 and 2012 Britain cut household food waste by 21 percent due to an awareness raising campaign that stimulated the use of resealable salad bags and zip-lock cheese packs, the study said.
The campaign resulted in savings for consumers and local authorities, which benefited from lower waste disposal costs of 6.6 billion pounds ($8 billion), against costs of 26 million pounds, the research said.
About a third of food produced around the world is never eaten because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.
($1 = 0.8157 pounds)
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)