FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Towards a waste-free future

FAO takes a comprehensive approach to reducing food loss and waste

©FAO/Victor Sokolowicz


Over the past 50 years, food production has grown by almost 300 percent. And yet, by 2050, we will need to produce 60 percent more food to feed a world population of 9.3 billion.

Not only do current agricultural practices take too heavy a toll on our natural resources, but they also contribute significantly to climate change. Our challenge should not be how to grow more food, but how to reduce food loss and waste in a sustainable manner.

An estimated 14 percent of the world’s food is lost after harvest but before it reaches retail, and an additional 17 percent of edible food is being discarded by shops, restaurants and consumers.

Food loss and waste has become the norm, and we need a major paradigm shift towards sustainable production and consumption patterns.

Today,  International Day of Zero Waste 2023, is a day for governments, international organizations, food businesses, civil society and the public at large to reflect on their roles in combatting the issue and in scaling up action to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems that use natural resources efficiently, lessen planetary impacts, and ensure food security and nutrition for all.

Like other complex, multifaceted problems, halting food loss and waste requires a comprehensive approach, with broad collaboration among all stakeholders. It requires research data; an enabling institutional and policy environment; affordable investment mechanisms; climate-smart innovation, technologies and infrastructure; and shifts in consumer behaviour.

FAO supports countries in the path towards agrifood systems transformation

Under the global SAVE FOOD Initiative, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is implementing a comprehensive food loss and waste reduction programme in Europe and Central Asia aimed at raising awareness about the issue, promoting good practices and solutions, and facilitating synergies among food value chain actors to advance progress in reducing food loss and waste. The programme also supports low- and middle-income countries in the region in developing and implementing national strategies and action plans to reduce food loss and waste, and it advises policymakers and national stakeholders, including private-sector players, on appropriate interventions and solutions.

FAO has formulated food loss and waste reduction strategies and action plans for Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, North Macedonia, Türkiye, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as a municipal food waste reduction strategy for Ukraine. National strategies for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Tajikistan are in the final stages of development. The strategy development process requires the analysis of food loss and waste along value chains and an in-depth study of country-specific contexts, including national policies and legislation relevant to food loss and waste. For, while food businesses are at the forefront of change, this needs to be underpinned by well-designed government policy that enables and incentivizes other players to act.

In Georgia, FAO’s evidence-based recommendations for food waste management informed the Law on Food Waste and Food Donation, which is currently in the process of adoption. FAO also supported the early stages of the drafting of a law on food loss and food waste prevention in the Republic of Moldova, which will come into force in May 2023.

What emerges strongly across the region is evidence gaps. Data is crucial for policymakers and individual actors in the food supply chain to formulate and prioritize effective food loss and waste reduction strategies and interventions and to inform investment decisions. FAO is committed to enhance national capacities to collect and analyse data by training relevant stakeholders on various tools and methodologies.

In addition to analysing food loss and waste along value chains, FAO conducted a study on the causes of household food waste and consumers’ perceptions of food waste in Georgia. A deep understanding of the psychosocial context and barriers to consumer behaviour change is key to inducing the shift towards sustainable consumption patterns. This knowledge will empower governments and food businesses to design human-centred processes and policies and to launch more impactful interventions and communication campaigns.

A national campaign in Türkiye, which FAO carried out in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Türkiye, has reached more than 21 million people through media and educational and outreach activities. It resulted in the significant reduction – from 22 to 13 percent – of food waste in household kitchens, as more people reported cooking only what was needed and using leftovers. Consumer awareness about the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates also improved by 20 percent.

Aiming to shape sustainable consumption behaviour, FAO believes that investing in the education of children – the next generation of consumers – will help create the culture of change required to stem the waste and loss problem, now and in the future. In collaboration with national partners, FAO rolled out the Do Good: Save Food! educational programme on food waste reduction for schoolchildren in Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Türkiye and Ukraine.

With seven years left to achieve SDG target 12.3, we need to galvanize more partners around the issue and work together in a coherent way. This transition is achievable, but it requires rapid action at all levels and in multiple ways.


30 March 2023, Budapest, Hungary


Oksana Sapiga

Communications and partnership consultant

SAVE FOOD - Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Budapest, Hungary