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.

1 July 2014

In 2013 the UK’s Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) released the publication entitled Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK 2012 which quantified the amounts, types and reasons for food and drink being wasted from UK households.  It found that the amount of avoidable household food waste in 2012 (4.2 million tonnes per year) is equivalent to six meals every week for the average UK household. Preventing this food waste could save the average family up to £700 a year and deliver significant environmental benefits through landfill avoidance and by mitigating climate change (on the basis that this ‘unnecessary’ food would not need to be produced and hence all the costs associated with its production and distribution would be avoided).

23 June 2014

In this feature on Food Choices & Health, the United States Department of Agriculture and Economic Research Service (ERS) discusses food loss and food waste and points out the distinction in meaning between the two. They describe food loss as includes moisture loss and cooking shrinkage; loss from mould, pests, or inadequate climate control; and food waste.

13 June 2014

This research argues that we need to implement a food waste hierarchy approach to preventing and managing food surplus and waste. It argues that a distinction between food surplus and waste is crucial as is the distinction between avoidable and unavoidable waste. Its main message is that food waste can be prevented by adopting a sustainable production and consumption approach and by tackling food surplus and waste throughout the global food supply chain.

9 April 2014

Two reports by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation on malnutrition and on food waste. 

27 March 2014

We include this initiative because it addresses the challenges of of ‘closing the food loop’. This innovative solar-thermal toilet was developed by a team led by CU-Boulder Professor Karl Linden to improve sanitation and hygiene in developing countries.

26 March 2014

This paper reviews one aspect of the food sustainability challenge: the goal of producing more food – a goal that is unthinkingly accepted by some and vigorously contested by  others. The paper argues that increased food production is necessary but also emphasises that this alone, as a response to the challenge, is not sufficient.

27 February 2014

CONSENSUS has been awarded funding by the Irish EPA to further its innovative research on sustainable consumption. CONSENSUS is the first large-scale, all-island research project on sustainable consumption in Irish households. The research will involve In-Home Living Labs which mean that households will be testing novel solutions for more sustainable food practices around food purchasing, cooking, waste management and washing. For example, householders will experiment with new-to-market composting tools, smart food apps, and grow-your-own kits. Researchers will also conduct ethnographic research to evaluate how these interventions affect food practices, advancing knowledge on practice-oriented approaches to behaviour change and identifying R&D, policy and educational initiatives.

27 February 2014

A recent study from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research finds that the UK is failing to make the most of its abundant biomass potential. The researchers found that almost half, up to 44%, of the UK's energy could be produced within the country by using biomass sources, including household waste, agricultural residues and home-grown biofuels. The UK currently produces about half of the food it consumes, and is ~60% ‘self-sufficient’. Although complete food self-sufficiency is not the current goal, the researchers stress that improved food system adaptive capacity is important if the UK is to cope with future stresses in the food system.

5 December 2013

The Irish CONSENSUS research project on sustainable household consumption has launched a set of two-minute video animations on their research. CONSENSUS aims to advance understanding of the drivers shaping everyday household consumption practices and to identify policy, technology and educational interventions to facilitate sustainable living. We are highlighting three of their videos here.

21 November 2013

Old wine in new bottles: the winery Virginia Marie Lambrix has partnered with packaging specialists to create their new Truett Hurst PaperBoy wine bottle. The package replaces glass with recycled paper and all material inputs used in producing the bottle are included based on sustainability criteria. The outer shell is made of recycled corrugated waste and the thin plastic liner, screw cap closure, inks and other materials are all UV-based and do not contain volatile organic compounds.

13 November 2013

The European Commission has announced funding for three major research projects designed to promote innovation in the meat and livestock sector. The funding will come from EU’s outgoing Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.

13 November 2013

This report updates WRAP’s 2007 report The Food We Waste which exposed the full scale of the food waste problem for the first time. It identifies how much food is wasted in UK homes, which foods are wasted most and why, and how much that waste costs. The WRAP research reveals a substantial reduction in the amount of household food and drink waste arising between 2007 and 2012, while also highlighting the scale of the opportunity remaining.

1 November 2013

This paper published  in Journal of Environmental Planning and Management discusses the idea of  using surplus food redistribution to reduce food waste. It concludes that unless a distinction is drawn between genuine waste to be recovered and surplus to be redistributed for community benefit, surplus food as a resource is unlikely to be fully utilised.

15 October 2013

The UK based organization WRAP (Waste Reduction Action Plan) has released a new report which concludes that £6.9 billion worth of food, drink and packaging waste occurs in the grocery retail supply chain. The report identifies where in the sector the waste arises, what the waste is, and how it is managed. It also concludes that the waste totals 7% of the value of food and drink sales to households and argues that if the money was instead used for increasing exports or investment it would both help individual businesses and the economy to grow.

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