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.
The authors of this study looked at the impact of measures introduced by Scandinavia’s largest hotel chain to reduce food waste. Plate sizes were reduced while signs were also posted encouraging customers to help themselves to food more than once (ie. signalling that they didn’t have to overload their plates the first time because they could always come back for more): the effect of these measures in combination was a 20% reduction in food waste.
This paper finds that the water footprint of agricultural products (a definition that presumably includes non-food products) accounts for 91% of the EU’s production-related water footprint and 89% of its consumption related footpint. It argues that much more water can be saved by modifying diets and reducing food waste than through the traditional water-saving routes highlighted in mainstream awareness raising campaigns. The paper echoes others that find animal products to be particularly water intensive.
Plantwise is an initiative, led by CABI, to improve food security and the lives of the rural poor by reducing crop losses. Plantwise has been initiated to help developing countries set up and run community based plant clinics staffed by ‘plant doctors’ that deliver free plant health advice to farmers.
A report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been published , focusing on the environmental problems caused by nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrient flows and identifying the actions that could be taken to reduce excessive nutrient use. The research was led by Mark Sutton at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and carried out by 50 exports from 14 countries.
In December 2012 Chatham House (The Royal Institute for International Affairs) produced a report, Resource Futures, which presented the findings of a major into the shifting global political economy of key resources (land, water, energy, minerals and food), analysing their inter-linkages in production, use and trade.
In our 24th September Newsletter, we mentioned that the EU is considering plans to limit crop-based biofuels to 5% of transport fuel. Biofuels have been promoted in recent years, largely because of the belief that they will help reduce transport’s impact on the environment, and particularly because of its contribution to climate change. But the indirect effects of growing crops to make fuel have seriously challenged these assumptions.
The Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary “responsibility deal” aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery sector. This includes action to reduce food and packaging waste. Signatories to the deal include UK grocery retailers and manufacturers, and the initiative is led and coordinated by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
This paper starts with a summary of why food waste is an issue, from an environmental and economic perspective, reviews other developed country estimates of food waste losses, and then calculates the volume and economic value of retail and consumer stage food losses in the US, looking at this at an aggregate and individual consumer level (it doesn’t quantify environmental impacts).
This modelling study, published in Global Change Biology, finds that if indirect land use change (iLUC) factors are not accounted for when assessing the GHG balance of biofuels, then “the Renewable Energy Directive could be expected to deliver only a 4% carbon saving compared to fossil fuel, with a 30% chance that it would actually cause a net emissions increase.”
This report, entitled “Feeding a thirsty world: Challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure world”, was published by the Stockholm International Water Institute as its official input into the discussions at the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm on August 26-31 2012.
The Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) has produced the first complete world atlas of resource use - "Green economies around the world? Implications of resource use for development and the environment".
Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, is inviting people to subscribe to its new e-newsletter - The Resource, to keep everyone informed of its latest activities.
WRAP, the Waste Resources Action Programme has published the findings of its Retailer Survey 2012, , which looks at the progress the food industry has made in reducing the amount of food that consumers waste.
The 2012 survey looked at 12,000 products across 20 different categories where food waste has traditionally been high, including bread, bacon, chicken, apples, carrots, potatoes, bagged salad, rice, pasta, yoghurt, eggs, cheese and milk.
The survey’s findings included:
The Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) and the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) have published a ‘key messages’ statement for Rio+20. The document highlights the problems caused by excessive nutrient use on the one hand, and insufficient use on the other, and identifies nine key actions as being central to improving nutrient use efficiency, thereby improving food and energy production while reducing N and P losses that pollute our environment.
In 2009, Rockström et al published a paper in Nature which proposed the concept of nine planetary boundaries, which we must keep within if we are not to suffer potentially catastrophic consequences. More recently Nature has published an interesting opinion piece on the boundaries idea.
This paper considers uncertainties in estimating global N2O emissions from agriculture and in projecting future emissions. As regards mitigation, it highlights the potential achievable through dietary change (away from meat and dairy consumption), and of food waste reductions.
FCRN mailing list member Ken Giller is one of the authors of this paper on phosphorous which finds that average global phosphorous needs in 2050 will be less than previous estimates assume due to the presence of residual phosphorous in soils (from historical applications). The implication of this is that the global phosphate supply will last longer than hitherto expected.
This is an interesting presentation, given by Eric Davidson of Woods Hole Research Center, at the recent Planet under Pressure conference in March 2012. The presentation is a summary of a paper he has forthcoming in Environmental Research Letters.
A study by Sonnino and McWillliam investigates food waste in hospitals in Wales. The researchers look at three hospitals and find that up to 60% of the food was thrown away, with levels particularly high in elderly rehabilitation wards.