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.
Current crop production levels could feed a population of 9.7 billion people in 2050, according to a recent paper, but only in a future in which there are socio-economic changes, significant shifts in diets towards plant-based foods, and limited biofuel production. Without dietary changes, crop production would have to increase by 119% by 2050.
This paper, by FCRN member Hannah van Zanten (and whose authors include FCRN director Tara Garnett), calculates that a food system where livestock are fed only on food waste and industrial and agricultural by-products could provide 9 to 23 g of animal protein to the daily human diet (compared to daily protein needs of 50 to 60 g per person) while using one quarter less land than a food system with no livestock. The paper notes that the waste-fed livestock system could allow people in Asia and Africa to increase their consumption of animal protein, but that current consumption levels in other areas are higher than would be possible under a waste-fed livestock system.
A new edible and almost invisible coating could extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables and help farmers sell more of their crops, reports Civil Eats. The maker of the coating, Apeel Sciences, says that the coating is made from fats that can be derived from the peel, seeds and pulp of “any kind of fruit or vegetable”. Apeel Sciences claims that the coating can double the lifespan of produce, even without refrigeration.
This book, by Ludovica Principato, reviews information on consumer-level food waste, including the factors and behaviours affecting food waste levels, policies and initiatives.
A report by Friends of the Earth Europe finds that plastic food packaging is not a solution to growing levels of food waste in Europe, contrary to some claims that packaging can reduce food waste by extending the shelf life of foods. For example, using packaging to group food together in larger packs could encourage customers to buy more food than necessary. Another example is that green beans are often cut to fit into the packaging, causing losses of 30 to 40%.
US grocers focus more on donating and recycling food waste than on preventing it, reports the Centre for Biological Diversity. The report scored 10 US grocery chains and the UK supermarket Tesco on food waste reduction commitments, policies and actions.
Experts agree that feeding properly treated food waste to pigs can be done safely at scale, according to a seminar report by FCRN member Karen Luyckx of food waste charity Feedback (our thanks to FCRN member Jessica Sinclair Taylor, also of Feedback, for bringing this research to our attention).
FCRN member Ramy Salemdeeb of Ricardo Energy & Environment used Life Cycle Assessment to calculate 14 different categories of environmental impacts of three food waste management options: incineration, composting and anaerobic digestion. Composting had the lowest impacts in 7 out of the 14 impact categories.
Fresh fruit and vegetables deliberately withdrawn from the market and destroyed under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy accounted for 5.1 Mt CO2 eq. in embedded production-stage emissions between 1989 and 2015, according to research by FCRN member Stephen Porter of the University of Edinburgh.
Scientists have unintentionally created a variant of a bacterial enzyme that is 20% better than the original at breaking down polyethylene terephthalate, commonly used to make plastic bottles. The researchers were investigating the properties of a bacterium that has naturally evolved to digest plastic.
UK charity WRAP has launched the UK Plastics Pact, a voluntary scheme which brings together businesses responsible for 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold in UK supermarkets. The pact aims to make 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, among other goals.
FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen has found that in a survey of farmers and other stakeholders, more than 75% of them would support re-legalising the use of swill (cooked waste food) as animal feed. Half of all pig farmers said they would consider using swill on their farm, were it re-legalised and safe heat-treatment procedures introduced. Erasmus has written a blog post to explain the topic.
The World Resources Institute has launched Resource Watch, an online tool for accessing and visualising data about resource use and sustainability issues around the world.
The UK waste charity WRAP has recently reported that hotels could save $7 for every $1 invested in reducing food waste. The report studied 42 hotels in 15 countries and identified winning strategies that included: “measure the food waste, engage staff, rethink the buffet, reduce food overproduction, and repurpose excess food”. 70% of hotels managed to recoup their investments within one year, and 95% within two years.
This paper examines some of the environmental trade-offs associated with using multilayered biodegradable packaging made of thermoplastic starch and polyhydroxyalkanoate.
Walmart has developed a machine learning tool to predict when fruit and vegetables will spoil and make supply chains less wasteful.
You can view the full video recording of the panel talk “Reinventing the plastic bottle” which was hosted by the Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy at Chatham House. Speakers discussed problems created by single-use plastic bottles and some possible solutions.