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.

20 March 2019

This report from the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association reviews the current state of sustainability in the UK food service sector. The three main challenges it identifies are reducing the amount of meat on menus, reducing food waste, and using less single-use plastic packaging.

26 February 2019

This booklet, by FCRN member Imke de Boer, sets out the scientific basis for the 2018 Mansholt lecture by Louise Fresco, President of the Wageningen University & Research Executive Board. The lecture discussed how the concept of circularity can be applied to agricultural production.

29 January 2019

This report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation outlines three ways in which cities can promote a circular food economy: source food grown regeneratively and (when appropriate) locally; reduce waste and use by-products; and design and market healthier food.

15 January 2019

The UK government has set out a waste and resources strategy for England, aiming to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050 and promote a circular economy. Proposed measures include taxing plastic that contains less than 30% recycled material and providing food waste collection to all householders and relevant businesses.

10 December 2018

The World Resources Institute has published a new report outlining solutions for feeding 10 billion people without increasing emissions, fueling deforestation or exacerbating poverty.

3 December 2018

This book, edited by Charis Galanakis, describes many different aspects of saving food and food security throughout the supply chain, including raising awareness, redistribution, policy, food conservation, cold chain, supply chain management, and waste reduction and recovery.

Image: liz west, cranberries, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
12 November 2018

This piece in the New Food Economy explores why the US cranberry industry has collectively agreed to destroy one quarter of its harvest, but will not ask any farmers to scale back production. A surplus of cranberries on the market means that prices are being driven below the cost of production. The agreement to destroy a portion of the harvest means that prices will rise again. Unlike other industries, which are regulated by antitrust laws, farmers are allowed to make collective agreements such as this under the Capper–Volstead Act.

6 November 2018

Sustainable Manufacturing and Recycling Technologies (SMART), a research and development centre at Loughborough University, has produced a post-event report of its expert panel discussion on reducing the impact of food waste held on 12 October 2018. The topics discussed include the influence of multibuy offers on food waste, the links between single-use packaging and food waste, the impacts of “wonky veg” ranges in supermarkets, and smart fridges.

22 October 2018

The UK government has announced £15 million of funding for a pilot project to subsidise the redistribution of surplus food from retailers and manufacturers. The project will focus on fresh food. The decision follows a campaign led by The Grocer magazine.

2 October 2018

Utilities company Veolia and plastics charity RECOUP have together released the report “Plan for plastics”, which considers how the UK can improve plastic recycling. The report finds that 93% of people think plastic bottles should be made with recycled materials and are willing to pay 2.5 pence more, on average, for a recycled bottle (compared to a non-recycled bottle). Less than 5% of plastic film is currently recycled, compared to 59% of plastic bottles.

Image: WordRidden, Veg box, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
25 September 2018

An op-ed by Phat Beets Produce and Food First, both Californian food justice organisations, argues that commercial ventures buying and selling cheap “ugly” (e.g. misshapen) produce are undercutting food justice initiatives (such as Phat Beets Produce’s own community-supported agriculture scheme) and reducing the amount of surplus food available to be sent to food banks.

25 September 2018

FCRN member Monika Rut of Trinity College Dublin has written a blog post about her research on the food sharing landscape in Singapore, as part of the SHARECITY project. She discusses projects including the Singapore Food Bank, Edible Garden City, and SG Food Rescue.

12 September 2018

The World Wildlife Fund has released a report measuring on-farm crop waste at various locations in the United States. During the 2017-18 growing season, 40% of tomatoes, 39% of peaches, 2% of potatoes and 56% of romaine lettuce were left in the field. Causes of waste at the farm stage include strict quality standards, damage due to weather, variable consumption patterns and unpredictable labour supply. Some growers pointed out, however, that the nutrients in on-farm waste food are almost always recycled, e.g. as animal feed or by ploughing the waste back into the field.

Image: USDA, Fruit bar pick, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
4 September 2018

A survey of 18- to 24-year-old students in the US finds that very few study participants had high knowledge of the issue of food waste, and many participants estimated that they wasted less than the average American. Students often attributed blame for food waste to university dining halls, food service outlets or society in general, rather than to themselves as individuals. The paper grouped factors that both increased and reduced food waste production (depending on context) into several categories, including taste and appearance, reuse value, scheduling, personal values, portion sizes, cost, social norms, whether or not the food was prepared by the person who ate it, sharing of food, convenience, and food safety.

31 July 2018

This book, by Ramesh Ray and S Ramachandran, presents technological interventions in ethanol production from food crops, addresses food security issues arising from bioethanol production and identifies development bottlenecks.

31 July 2018

Environmental campaigning organisation Feedback have released a new report in which, having examined environmental, economic and safety factors, it lays out the case for lifting the ban on feeding surplus food to pigs in the UK. The report finds that up to 2.5 million tonnes of food waste from the UK manufacturing, retail and catering sectors could be fed safely to pigs, if legalised. The report draws on the work of an expert panel convened by EU REFRESH, who concluded that food waste can be safely fed to pigs if it is heat-treated and processed properly, and conducted in a limited number of well-regulated off-farm processing facilities. The report was featured on BBC1’s Countryfile and in the Times.

Image: Richard W.M. Jones~commonswiki, Broad beans, shelled and steamed, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
24 July 2018

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.

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