Why and How to Measure Food Loss and Waste


Across North America, governments and businesses are increasingly realizing the enormous impacts of food loss and waste. Uneaten food represents social, environmental and economic costs, but also a large opportunity. Taking action to prevent food loss and waste offers a rare “triple win” – economic gains, reduction of environmental impacts and improved quality of life for those who currently lack sufficient food.

To successfully reduce and prevent food loss and waste, a government or business must first measure how much food is being lost or wasted within its boundaries. Measurement identifies the scale of the problem and the hotspots that most need to be addressed and allows for tracking progress over time. In short, what gets measured gets managed.

This practical guide walks readers through the steps for measuring food loss and waste (FLW) within a home, institution, business, city, state or country. Treat it as a quick reference for assistance and look for internal links that allow you to quickly reach the material of most interest.

This practical guide provides a step-by-step plan for how companies and governments can begin the process of measuring food loss and waste. It addresses key topics such as:

  • Why to measure food loss and waste (FLW)
  • How to establish a business case for food loss and waste measurement
  • Addressing common barriers and obstacles
  • Tracking causes of food loss and waste
  • Converting measurements to other financial, environmental and social impacts
  • How to select a measurement method

This guide was developed as part of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Operational Plan 2017-2018 and its Measuring and Mitigating Food Loss and Waste project. The goal of the project is to improve measurement of food loss and waste (FLW) across the North American supply chain and to calculate its environmental and socioeconomic impacts. Outputs of this project include this practical guide and a technical report entitled Quantifying Food Loss and Waste and Its Impacts (CEC 2019). Together, these publications offer practical tools, information and activities designed to help facilities, organizations and governments prevent, recover and recycle FLW.