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Supermarket food waste — alternative waste strategies can reduce the environmental impact

Researchers have examined environmental and economic impacts of supermarket food waste in a new study. Bread and meat products made the largest contribution to the environmental footprint of the supermarket assessed. Alternative waste strategies, such as using bread waste as animal feed, have the potential to reduce these impacts.

The production and consumption of food contributes to a number of major environmental challenges including climate change, eutrophication and the loss of biodiversity. Global food demand is expected to increase by 70% by 20501, which is likely to increase these environmental impacts. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted2. Reducing food waste is therefore necessary to improve food security and minimise the environmental impacts of food production.

Supermarkets make a significant contribution to food waste — although they produce less waste compared to households and agriculture. For example, in 2012, Swedish retailers wasted between 45 000 to 70 000 tonnes of food. Supermarkets also influence the amount of waste produced by both suppliers and consumers, making them good targets for waste reduction. For example, retailers’ strict quality standards lead to the waste of large amounts of the food produced.

Source: Brancoli, P., Rousta, K. & Bolton, K.(2017). Life cycle assessment of supermarket food waste. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 118:39–46. DOI:10.1016/j.resconrec.2016.11.024