Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Waste and resource use

Food waste is common in both developing and developed countries. Estimates of the scale of waste and loss are between 30% to 40% of all food produced. Waste loss occurs during production, distribution and at the consumer stage. In richer nations, more food is wasted at the consumer level than in poorer countries: in Europe, an average of 95 kg of food is thrown out by each consumer each year. In developing countries much produce is lost due to a lack of suitable packaging and storage facilities (so called post-harvest losses). According to the FAO, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) a year as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). Food waste also represents a waste of all the embedded resources involved in producing it (land, water, fossil fuel inputs, agro chemicals) and in this sense is also a source of 'unnecessary' GHG emissions.

22 October 2019

This report from the Food Ethics Council sets out how UK food businesses and government could learn from the Danish food system. Although Denmark and the UK have similarities, e.g. in climate, Denmark ranked 7th in the 2018 Food Sustainability Index while the UK ranked 24th. 

Image: Lynn Betts, USDA, Fertilizer applied to corn field, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
22 October 2019

This paper outlines the main sustainability challenges linked to nitrogen, including inadequate access to nitrogen fertiliser in some parts of the world and excessive fertiliser application in other areas, leading to water pollution, algal blooms and risks to human health. The paper argues that solving nitrogen problems would have co-benefits for other sustainability issues such as hunger, air, soil and water quality, climate and biodiversity.

9 October 2019

This book presents case studies and guidance on extracting high-value compounds from waste and by-products from foods such as dairy, meat, sweet potato, cereals and olive oil.

2 October 2019

This report from the UK charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) provides the latest estimates for food losses and food waste in primary production (i.e. on farms) in the UK. It finds that 3% of food harvested is wasted at the farm stage (sent to waste treatment such as composting without first being used for another purpose, or left in the field) and 4% is surplus (material intended for food uses that ends up being redistributed to people, fed to animals or used for other purposes), making a total of 7%.

2 October 2019

This report from the Food and Land Use Coalition proposes ten critical transitions that could enable the food system to provide healthy diets for nine billion people by 2050 while also protecting the climate and biodiversity. The transitions are estimated to provide over 15 times more social benefit than their investment cost, which is likely to be less than 0.5% of global GDP.

Image: Pxhere, Bacon breakfast closeup, CC0 Public Domain
18 September 2019

This paper quantifies the carbon emissions, water use and land use associated with the consumption of food excess to requirements, on the basis that overnutrition has sometimes been classified as a form of food waste. It finds high geographical variation in the environmental impacts of so-called excess food consumption, with impacts being an order of magnitude greater in Europe, North America and Oceania than in sub-Saharan Africa.

Image: Alexandra Pugachevsky, Phosphate Mining at SNPT, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
18 September 2019

This paper reviews the literature on the supply chain of phosphorus, a nutrient required in agriculture, and finds that current reporting is inadequate regarding phosphorus reserves and resources, losses along the supply chain, environmental and sociopolitical externalities, and open access to data.

Image: Public Domain Pictures, Slices Of Bread On A White Background, CC0 Public Domain
22 July 2019

FCRN member Peter Alexander has co-authored this paper, which finds that incremental improvements in several areas of the food system (including production efficiency, reducing food waste and changing diets) could reduce agricultural land use by between 21% and 37%, depending on adoption rates. 

16 July 2019

Conservation NGO WWF has released the 40-minute film “Our planet, our business”, which sets out five principles for businesses to follow in order to protect nature and their own future.

9 July 2019

Over 100 food organisations, including many supermarkets, have signed the “Step up to the Plate” pledge (organised by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to halve food waste by 2030, support a week of action in November 2019, empower citizens and change their individual habits so as to reduce food waste.

Image: Marco Verch, Flat lay above Pastry with Walnuts cream, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
25 June 2019

According to this paper, households in the Netherlands wasted 41kg of solid food per person in 2016 - a 15% decline since 2010. Furthermore, 57 litres per person of potable liquids such as coffee, tea and milk are disposed of via the sink or toilet each year. Rice, bread, pasta, vegetables and pastries are among the food types most likely to be wasted (as a percentage of purchased quantity).

29 May 2019

Wageningen University and Research has formed a consortium together with several private companies to research the use of co-products and residues from the food sector and industry as animal feed. A particular research focus will be on increasing Europe’s self-sufficiency in feed materials.

Image: Louise.ward, Blue Apron meal kit, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
8 May 2019

This paper calculates the environmental impacts (climate change, acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use) caused by either making a meal by using a meal kit (which contains pre-portioned ingredients for cooking a meal) or by buying the ingredients from a grocery store.

29 April 2019

Free-range eggs in the Agbogbloshie slum in Ghana are contaminated with some of the highest levels ever measured (in eggs) of certain toxic substances due to the illegal dumping of electronic waste from Europe, according to this report from Swedish non-profit IPEN and US non-profit Basel Action Network.

Image: Lorrie Graham/AusAID, The site of secondary mining of Phosphate rock in Nauru, 2007, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
29 April 2019

This paper maps the potential for different subnational, national, or regional areas to reduce their agricultural dependence on imported phosphorus fertiliser by recycling manure or urban waste (including both human excreta and household and industrial wastes).

17 April 2019

FCRN member Tom Quested of resource efficiency organisation WRAP Global recommends the REFRESH Community of Experts, which is an online platform to find and share information (such as best practices) on food waste prevention.

17 April 2019

This policy briefing from EU food waste research project REFRESH outlines policy options for reducing food waste at the consumer level, based on both desktop research and a survey of households in four countries.

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