Food waste in Norway

The SYMBIOMA project aim is to valorize waste from food production – what previously was considered as a waste becomes raw material and can be considered as a new product. The best way to valorize the circular economy of food is to reduce waste.

About a third of all the food produced worldwide is lost or discarded, which accounts to one percent of the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Central in the UN’s sustainability goals, is the goal to halve global food waste by 2030. Reaching this goal will provide both environmental, economic, and social benefits to the world.

In November 2021, Norway, delivered its first national report on total food waste (Bransjeavtalen om reduksjon av matsvinn, 2020). This is the first step in measuring the country’s goal achievement of a 50% reduction by the year 2030. The report came after five Ministries (Climate and Environment, Children and Families, Health and Care Services, Agriculture and Food and Trade, Industry and Fisheries) and 12 nation-wide industry organizations in 2017 signed the Industry Agreement on reducing food waste. The report takes into account the whole food industry with all possible links along the food value chain, including food waste in individual households. To measure the progress in limiting food waste, the country will publish similar reports in 2025 and 2030.

The report define food waste as: “Food waste includes all usable parts of food produced for humans, but which are either thrown away or taken out of the food chain for purposes other than human consumption, from the time when animals and plants are slaughtered or harvested”, (p.13).

The report points to that food waste is more than the food that is wasted, and is associated with loss of resources and value ​​throughout the value chain – from food production to the time it is served. For example, food production requires land and other natural resources. It also involves the use of labor, energy, and transport. Throwing away edible food is a source of unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, but it also raises ethical concerns since large parts of the world continue to battle hunger and malnutrition.

The report also adds solutions. Food waste is a complex problem, but all of us have the opportunity to do something. To meet the targets of 2030, increased collaboration in the value chain is needed, and the authorities will work to reduce food waste in the public sector. In addition, a focus will be on strengthening knowledge among consumers about how to reduce food waste. Our joint efforts are important for ensuring sustainable resource utilization in the future.

Figure 1. Food waste in Norway. The figure is found in Bransjeavtalen om reduksjon av matsvinn (2020, p.16).

Figure 1 shows the total tons of food waste in Norway per sector. In total, in 2020, 453 650 tons of edible food ended up as waste. Of this, 400 000 tons came from the food industry (including wholesalers and markets), the public sector and households. The rest came from the primary industries: agriculture (41 700 tons) and fisheries (12 400 tons).

The main report and its respective industry reports can be found here: Bransjeavtalen om reduksjon av matsvinn: Hovedrapport 2020.