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.

8 July 2020

This BBC story looks at a new initiative to heat greenhouses in East Anglia using waste heat from nearby water treatment plants. According to the story, the technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heating greenhouses as well as reduce reliance on imported produce.

9 June 2020

This book explores microbiological and biotechnological advances in food production, covering topics such as food safety, fermentation for preservation, sustainable production of seafood, food additives and bioprocesses to make agri-food wastes safe.

26 May 2020

UK supermarket Iceland has reduced its food waste by 23% over two years, according to this report. In 2019/2020, Iceland wasted food equivalent to 0.57% of sales. None of this waste went to landfill. The majority of food waste went to anaerobic digestion, with some surplus bread being converted to animal feed. Small amounts of surplus food were redistributed to people in need or used to brew beer.

12 May 2020

This piece from nonprofit food media outlet The Counter explains why some farmers in the US have been dumping surplus food during the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time that food banks are struggling to source enough food.

12 May 2020

This book presents recent developments, trends and challenges in turning food waste into products such as biofuel, enzymes, biopolymers and animal feed. 

5 May 2020

This book examines the material properties and sustainability of various polymers that can be used for food packaging, such as bioplastics and edible food packaging.

5 May 2020

This paper by FCRN member Daniel Tan finds that bioethanol derived from agave grown in semi-arid areas of Australia could have lower environmental impacts than biofuels derived from US corn and Brazilian sugarcane. Agave is widely grown in Mexico to make the alcoholic drink tequila. 

16 March 2020

This e-book from the international climate nonprofit Project Drawdown reviews the world’s options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The top solutions related to food and land (see section 1.2 of the book) are reducing food waste, shifting to plant-rich diets, protecting ecosystems such as peatland and forests, and shifting agricultural practices (e.g. improving rice production).

16 March 2020

This report from the UK think tank Green Alliance argues that the problem of plastic pollution cannot be solved by simply replacing plastic with alternative materials - instead, a system-wide transition to a circular economy is required, prioritising safety, sustainability and efficiency. The report focuses on the UK’s culture of single-use packaging.

16 March 2020

FCRN member Margareta Lelea of the German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL) has co-authored this paper, which uses the example of the pineapple supply chain in Uganda to argue that efforts to reduce post-harvest losses often neglect the uses of waste streams by local people.

10 March 2020

This report sets out the results of the European Union-funded REFRESH Project: Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain. The project aimed to reduce food waste in the EU by developing an evidence base on consumer and business behaviour, assessing the environmental benefits of avoiding food waste, and designing technology to add value to food waste streams.

26 February 2020

This paper by Verma et al., with FCRN member Thom Achterbosch as co-author, estimates that consumers across the world are probably wasting over twice as much food as previously believed. The study is based on the FAOSTAT Food Balance Sheets, but goes further than the Food and Agriculture Organisation in that it factors in how consumer affluence affects food waste. It finds that once people spend more than $6.70 per day (in total, not just on food), food waste starts to rise - suggesting that consumer food waste is an issue even in lower-middle income countries, not only in wealthier countries.

24 February 2020

This book addresses food waste from a variety of perspectives, including agriculture, food science, industrial ecology, history, economics, consumer behaviour, geography, theology, planning, sociology, and environmental policy.

18 February 2020

This textbook uses case studies and models to present an interdisciplinary perspective on the interactions between food, energy and water.

18 February 2020

UK waste charity WRAP has published guidance on compostable plastic packaging, aimed at retailers and manufacturers. The guidance covers what compostable plastics are, how they might contaminate conventional plastic recycling processes, how to label them appropriately to help people dispose of them, and six applications where compostable plastic packaging is likely to be beneficial within the UK’s current waste management infrastructure.

10 February 2020

This blog post, by Caroline Grunewald and Dan Blaustein-Rejto of the Breakthrough Institute (a US think tank), argues that the large scale of much American farming does not mean it is necessarily unsustainable - rather, when looking at the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use per unit of output, dramatic improvements have been seen since 1961.

10 February 2020

The SHARECITY project, based at Trinity College Dublin, has launched SHARE IT, a free toolkit to help food sharing initiatives worldwide document and communicate the impact of their activities on the sustainability of food systems. 

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