Carbon footprint of retail food wastage : a case study of six Swedish retail stores

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Energy and Technology

Abstract: Globally, about 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year. Besides economic, ethic and social aspects, food wastage bears a considerable environmental burden. The production of food causes greenhouse gases (GHG) at all stages along the food supply chain. Especially for animal products, the agricultural stage is crucial with CH4 and N2O emissions being of major importance. Agriculture was estimated to be the cause of 10-12 % of global anthropogenic GHG emissions and 15 % of production related emissions at EU level. Other steps like processing and transportation of food also cause GHG emissions. Therefore, wasting food not only means that resources are wasted but also that GHG emissions have been caused in vain. Although wastage of food occurs at all stages along the food supply chain (FSC), later stages like households and the retail sector play a major role in industrialized countries. In Sweden and other European countries, the retail sector is a highly concentrated industry which means that food wastage is also concentrated to certain locations. Moreover, the quality of the food wasted in stores often is still very high. Retailers are closely connected to other stages of the FSC and present the link between producers and consumers. Therefore, addressing the retail sector is a key issue in order to reduce food wastage. Reduction measures have to be economical feasible which means that priority areas have to be identified. Previous studies on food waste in the retail sector have primarily focused on quantities of waste in terms of mass and have identified fresh produce as main contributor. However, only evaluating wasted mass does not give sufficient information about the environmental impact. The aim of this study was to analyze the wasted food in terms of GHG emissions including CO2, CH4 and N2O in order to gain knowledge about the climate impact of food waste and its reduction potential. Therefore, the wastage carbon footprint (CF) of all products wasted in the stores was calculated. The wastage CF was defined as the CF from cradle up to delivery to the retailer for the total amount of retail waste of a certain product. To determine the CF from cradle to retailer of the various products an extensive literature review especially of LCA studies was conducted. In general, emissions associated with the production and transportation of food were considered. Data on wasted food products was provided by six Swedish retail stores belonging to the discount chain Willys. Products of the meat, deli, cheese, dairy, and fruit & vegetable department were analyzed. In total, 1565 t of food were wasted in the six stores over a three-year period. The associated total wastage CF was 2500 t of CO2e or 830 t of CO2e/yr. The average CF per ton of food waste was therefore 1.6 t of CO2e. 85 % of the wasted mass consisted of fruit and vegetables, followed by wasted products of the dairy (6.4 %), deli (3.7 %), meat (3.5 %) and cheese (1.1 %) department. Comparing the wasted mass to the wastage CF, there was a clear shift between the different departments. With 46 % of the total wastage CF, the fruit & vegetable department still had the largest share. However, the meat department was responsible for about 29 % of the total wastage CF; the deli department contributed 13 % while the dairy and cheese department each had a share of about 6 %. Beef meat has the highest CF and all beef of the meat department combined had a share of 21 % of the overall wastage CF of the six stores. Moreover, the analysis showed that the wastage CF of a department tends to be highly concentrated in certain products. In the fruit & vegetable department, tomatoes, peppers and bananas account for 47 % of the department's wastage CF. Beef minced meat had a share of 19 % of the wastage CF of the meat department. Halving the waste of the three products with the highest wastage CF in each department could save more than 150 t of CO2e per year in the six stores.

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