Today, I am happy to publish a contribution by Ramy Salemdeeb, a resource efficiency and waste management consultant at Ricardo Energy and Environment. For some years I was enjoying his blog Zero Waste MENA, a regional initiative to promote sustainable practices in the Middle East and North Africa, and speaking frankly, I had created some expectations about his future. Now he is a final year PhD student at the University of Cambridge, with a first class degree in civil engineering and a Masters in Environmental Management and Technology. He is also a member at the UK Chartered Institution of Waste Management and Co-founder of the ISWA Young Professionals Group. Recently, he published a very interesting paper about food waste, titled “A holistic approach to the environmental evaluation of food waste prevention“, explaining why wasting less is not enough. I am sure you will enjoy the paper and its very useful insights on food waste.
“One third of food produced across the globe is thrown away uneaten, and this waste has a large associated environmental burden. Although a consensus exists amongst researchers, experts and environmentalists on the importance of reducing food waste, there is an ongoing debate about the real benefit that could be achieved by reducing food waste. The environmental evaluation of food waste prevention is considered a challenging task due to the globalised nature of the food supply chain and the limitations of existing evaluation tools. For example, the majority of studies looked at this issue ignored the rebound effect: the associated environmental burdens of substitutive consumption that arises as a result of economic savings made from food waste prevention.
Today, I am pleased to share with you my new article that addresses this issue for the first time. Published in the Journal of Waste Management, it provides a new and improved estimate of the environmental impact of food waste in the UK.
My article has two main take-home-messages:
- Food waste in the UK has a large carbon footprint, but reducing these impacts is not as simple as just reducing food waste. Our analysis improves on previous work by including the “rebound effect”. Additional activities by households as a result of savings made due to food waste prevention has an environmental impact, and when you include this effect, it reduces the greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits of avoiding food waste by up to 60%.
- Our study takes into account greenhouse gas emissions from across the international supply chain (i.e., including food imports). We find that while 44.4% of UK spending on food occurs abroad (i.e., for imported products), these imports are responsible for 77.4% of the UK’s food-related GHG emissions. In other words, food wasted in the UK has a big GHG footprint, in large part because a lot of it comes from overseas where agriculture is less-efficient, and so has a larger GHG footprint.
These two findings provide a deeper insight into our understanding of the environmental impacts of food waste prevention: the study demonstrates the need to adopt a holistic approach when developing food waste prevention policies in order to mitigate the rebound effect and highlight the importance of increasing efficiency across the global food supply chain, particularly in developing countries”.
Paper link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2016.09.042
Previous publications is available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ramy_Salemdeeb
Zero Waste MENA: http://www.zerowastemena.org/
Ricardo Energy and Environment: http://ee.ricardo.com/cms/