Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 2279–2290 | Cite as

Addressing food supply chain and consumption inefficiencies: potential for climate change mitigation

Original Article

Abstract

Globally, more than 30 % of all food that is produced is ultimately lost and/or wasted through inefficiencies in the food supply chain. In the developed world this wastage is centred on the last stage in the supply chain; the end-consumer throwing away food that is purchased but not eaten. In contrast, in the developing world the bulk of lost food occurs in the early stages of the supply chain (production, harvesting and distribution). Excess food consumption is a similarly inefficient use of global agricultural production; with almost 1 billion people now classed as obese, 842 million people are suffering from chronic hunger. Given the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, strategies that reduce food loss and wastage, or address excess caloric consumption, have great potential as effective tools in global climate change mitigation. Here, we examine the challenges of robust quantification of food wastage and consumption inefficiencies, and their associated greenhouse gas emissions, along the supply chain. We find that the quality and quantity of data are highly variable within and between geographical regions, with the greatest range tending to be associated with developing nations. Estimation of production-phase GHG emissions for food wastage and excess consumption is found to be similarly challenging on a global scale, with use of IPCC default (Tier 1) emission factors for food production being required in many regions. Where robust food waste data and production-phase emission factors do exist—such as for the UK—we find that avoiding consumer-phase food waste can deliver significant up-stream reductions in GHG emissions from the agricultural sector. Eliminating consumer milk waste in the UK alone could mitigate up to 200 Gg CO2e year−1; scaled up globally, we estimate mitigation potential of over 25,000 Gg CO2e year−1.

Keywords

Climate change mitigation Food waste Supply chain Greenhouse gas Agriculture 

References

  1. Babu N, Srivastava SK, Agarwal S (2013) Traditional storage practices of spices and condiments in Odisha. Indian J Tradit Knowl 12:518–523Google Scholar
  2. Bourne M (1977) Post harvest food losses—the neglected dimension in increasing the world food supply. Cornell International Agriculture Mimeograph 53. http://hdl.handle.net/1813/28900
  3. Burney JA, Davis SJ, Lobell DB (2010) Greenhouse gas mitigation by agricultural intensification. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107:12052–12057. doi:10.1073/pnas.0914216107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buzby JC, Hyman J (2012) Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States. Food Policy 37:561–570. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2012.06.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buzby JC, Wells HF, Axtman B, Mickey J (2009) Supermarket loss estimates for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood and their use in the ERS loss-adjusted food availability data. EIB-44, U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. March 2009. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/183501/eib44.pdf
  6. Chapagain A, James K (2011) The water and carbon footprint of household food and drink waste in the UK. Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), Banbury, Oxon, UK & WWF, Godalming, Surrey, UK. http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Water%20and%20Carbon%20Footprint%20report%20Final%2C%20Nov%202011_0.pdf
  7. Clarke JM (1989) Drying rate and harvest losses of windrowed versus direct combined barley. Can J Plant Sci 69:713–720. doi:10.4141/cjps-89-087 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Coulomb D (2008) Refrigeration and cold chain serving the global food industry and creating a better future: two key IIR challenges for improved health and environment. Trends Food Sci Technol 19:413–417. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2008.03.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cuéllar AD, Webber ME (2010) Wasted food, wasted energy: the embedded energy in food waste in the United States. Environ Sci Technol 44:6464–6469. doi:10.1021/es/100310d CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dong H, Mangino J, McAllister TA et al (2006a) Emissions from livestock and manure management. In: Eggleston S, Buendia L, Miwa K, Ngara T, Tanabe K (eds) 2006 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. IGES, JapanGoogle Scholar
  11. Dong H, Mangino J, McAllister TA, et al (2006b) Emissions from livestock and manure management. In: Eggleston S, Buendia L, Miwa K, Ngara T, Tanabe K (eds) 2006 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories, pp 10.1–10.87. http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/pdf/4_Volume4/V4_10_Ch10_Livestock.pdf
  12. FAO (2013) Food wastage footprint: impacts on natural resources. Technical report. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, Italy. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/ar429e/ar429e.pdf
  13. FAOSTAT (2014) FAOSTAT database. The Statistics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. http://faostat3.fao.org/faostat-gateway/go/to/download/FB/FB/E
  14. Forster P, Ramaswamy V, Artaxo P, et al (2007) Changes in atmospheric consituents and in radiative forcing. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, pp 129–234. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf
  15. Foster C, Green K, Bleda M, Dewick P, Evans B, Flynn A, Mylan J (2006) Environmental impacts of food production and consumption : a research report. Manchester Business School & Defra, Manchester & London. http://www.ifr.ac.uk/waste/Reports/DEFRA-Environmental%20Impacts%20of%20Food%20Production%20%20Consumption.pdf
  16. Gachango FG, Andersen LM, Pedersen SM (2014) Adoption of milk cooling technology among smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya. Trop Anim Health Prod 46:179–184. doi:10.1007/s11250-013-0472-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerbens-Leenes PW, Nonhebel S, Krol MS (2010) Food consumption patterns and economic growth. Increasing affluence and the use of natural resources. Appetite 55:597–608. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.09.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Godfray HCJ, Beddington JR, Crute IR et al (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327:812–818. doi:10.1126/science.1185383 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gooch M, Felfel A, Marenick N (2010) Food waste in Canada: opportunities to increase the competitiveness of Canada’s agri-food sector, while simultaneously improving the environment. http://site.ebrary.com/lib/celtitles/docDetail.action?docID=10617090
  20. Grolleaud M (2002) Post-harvest losses: discovering the full story. Overview of the phenomenon of losses during the post-harvest system. FAO, Agro Industries and Post-Harvest Management Service, RomeGoogle Scholar
  21. Guo X, Mroz TA, Popkin BM, Zhai F (2010) Structural change in the impact of income on food consumption in China, 1989–1993. Econ Dev Cult Change 48:737–760. doi:10.1086/452475 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gustavsson J, Cederberg C, Sonesson U, van Otterdijk R, Meybeck A (2011) Global food losses and food waste: extent, causes and prevention. FAO, Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf
  23. Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC (2009) The progressive increase of food waste in America and its environmental impact. PLoS One 4:e7940. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007940 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hall KD, Sacks G, Chandramohan D et al (2011) Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight. Lancet 378:826–837. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60812-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IEA (2011) World energy outlook 2011. International Energy Agency, OECD, ParisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. IPCC (2014) Summary for policymakers. In: Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ, Mach KJ, Mastrandrea MD, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, pp 1–32. http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WG2AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf
  27. Katajajuuri J-M, Silvennoinen K, Hartikainen H, Heikkilä L, Reinikainen A (2014) Food waste in the Finnish food chain. J Clean Prod 73:322–329. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.12.057 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Khoury CK, Bjorkman AD, Dempewolf H et al (2014) Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 201313490. doi:10.1073/pnas.1313490111
  29. Koester U (2013) Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States—Comments. Food Policy 41:63–64. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2013.04.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Liang L (1993) China’s post-harvest grain losses and the means of their reduction and elimination. Jingji 552:92–96Google Scholar
  31. Lundqvist J, de Fraiture C, Molden D (2008) Saving water: from field to fork. Curbing losses and wastage in the food chain. http://www.siwi.org/documents/Resources/Policy_Briefs/PB_From_Filed_to_Fork_2008.pdf
  32. Magnussen OM, Haugland A, Torstveit Hemmingsen AK, Johansen S, Nordtvedt TS (2008) Advances in superchilling of food—Process characteristics and product quality. Trends Food Sci Technol 19:418–424. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2008.04.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. MEP (2014) Density Measurement in Dairy Industry, Application Note—Anton Paar. vol. http://www.mep.net.au/foodlab/FL_5/MEP_DMA35_dairy.pdf
  34. Michaelowa A, Dransfeld B (2008) Greenhouse gas benefits of fighting obesity. Ecol Econ 66:298–308. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2007.09.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Monier V, Mudgal S, Escalon V, O’Connor C, Gibon T, Anderson G, Montoux H, Reisinger H, Dolley P, Ogilvie S, Morton G (2010) Preparatory study on food waste across EU 27. European Commission, Directorate-General for the Environment. http://bookshop.europa.eu/en/preparatory-study-on-food-waste-across-eu-27-pbKH3011342/
  36. Moran D, Macleod M, Wall E et al (2011) Marginal abatement cost curves for UK agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. J Agric Econ 62:93–118. doi:10.1111/j.1477-9552.2010.00268.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. NHANES (2014) National health and nutrition examination survey data. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Hyattsville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
  38. O’Brien D, Shalloo L, Crosson P et al (2013) An evaluation of the effect of greenhouse gas accounting methods on a marginal abatement cost curve for Irish agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Environ Sci Policy. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2013.09.001 Google Scholar
  39. Ogle SM, Olander L, Wollenberg L et al (2014) Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting agricultural management for climate change in developing countries: providing the basis for action. Glob Change Biol 20:1–6. doi:10.1111/gcb.12361 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Parfitt J, Barthel M, Macnaughton S (2010) Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change to 2050. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 365:3065–3081. doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0126 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Poleman TT, Thomas LT (1995) Income and dietary change: international comparisons using purchasing-power-parity conversions. Food Policy 20:149–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Popkin BM (2008) Will China’s nutrition transition overwhelm its health care system and slow economic growth? Health Aff (Millwood) 27:1064–1076. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.27.4.1064 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Prusky D (2011) Reduction of the incidence of postharvest quality losses, and future prospects. Food Secur 3:463–474. doi:10.1007/s12571-011-0147-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Quested T, Parry A (2011) New estimates for household food and drink waste in the UK. In: Waste & resources action plan (WRAP). http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/New%20estimates%20for%20household%20food%20and%20drink%20waste%20in%20the%20UK%20FINAL%20v2%20(updated%207thAugust2012).pdf
  45. Quested E, Parry D, Easteal S, Swannell R (2011) Food and drink waste from households in the UK. Nutr Bull 36:460–467. doi:10.1111/j.1467-3010.2011.01924.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Quested T, Ingle R, Parry A (2013) Household food and drink waste in the United Kingdom 2012. In: Waste & resources action plan (WRAP). http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/hhfdw-2012-main.pdf.pdf
  47. Reay DS, Davidson EA, Smith KA et al (2012) Global agriculture and nitrous oxide emissions. Nat Clim Change 2:410–416. doi:10.1038/nclimate1458 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schulte R, Donnellan T (2012) A marginal abatement cost curve for Irish agriculture. Teagasc submission to the National Climate Policy Development Consultation. Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Carlow. http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2012/1186/1186_Marginal_Abatement_Cost_Curve_for_Irish_Agriculture.pdf
  49. Smil V (2000) Feeding the world : a challenge for the twenty-first century. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  50. Smith P, Martino D, Cai Z et al (2008) Greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 363:789–813. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2184 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Smith P, Haberl H, Popp A et al (2013) How much land-based greenhouse gas mitigation can be achieved without compromising food security and environmental goals? Glob Change Biol 19:2285–2302. doi:10.1111/gcb.12160 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Smith P, Bustamente M, Ahammad H, et al (2014) Agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU). In: Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y, Farahani E, Kadner S, Seyboth K, Adler A, Baum I, Brunner S, Eickemeier P, Kriemann B, Savolainen J, Schlomer S, von Stechow C, Zwickel T, Minx JC (eds) Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change. Working group III contribution to the IPCC 5th assessment report, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–179Google Scholar
  53. Swinburn B, Sacks G, Ravussin E (2009a) Increased food energy supply is more than sufficient to explain the US epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 90:1453–1456. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28595 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Lo SK et al (2009b) Estimating the changes in energy flux that characterize the rise in obesity prevalence. Am J Clin Nutr 89:1723–1728. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.27061 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. UN (2013) World population prospects: The 2012 revision, vol 1: Comprehensive Tables. ST/ESA/SER.A/336. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm
  56. USDA (2010) Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/dietary_guidelines_for_americans/PolicyDoc.pdf
  57. USDA (2014) Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System. Economic Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.ers.usda.gov/datafiles/Food_Availability_Per_Capita_Data_System/LossAdjusted_Food_Availability/Dairy.xls
  58. Wall R, Howard JJ, Bindu J (2001) The seasonal abundance of blowflies infesting drying fish in south-west India. J Appl Ecol 38:339–348. doi:10.1046/J.1365-2664.2001.00588.X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wang Y, Mi J, Shan X-Y, Wang J, Ge K-Y (2007) Is China facing an obesity epidemic and the consequences? The trends in obesity and chronic disease in China. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 31:177–188. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803354 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Weinberger K, Genova Ii C, Acedo A (2008) Quantifying postharvest loss in vegetables along the supply chain in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Int J Postharvest Technol Innov 1:288–297. doi:10.1504/IJPTI.2008.021463 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Whittle L, Hug B, White S, et al (2013) Costs and potential of agricultural emissions abatement in Australia : a quantitative assessment of livestock abatement under the CFI. ABARES technical report 13.2. Canberra. http://data.daff.gov.au/data/warehouse/9aac/9aace/cpaead9abce003/costAgEmissionAbateAust_v1.0.0.pdf
  62. Williams AG, Audsley E, Sandars DL (2006) Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Main report. Defra Research Project IS0205. http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=IS0205_3959_FRP.doc
  63. Yahia EM (2009) Cold chain development and challenges in the developing world. VI Int Postharvest Symp 877:127–132Google Scholar
  64. Zhu Y, Chen H, Fan J et al (2000) Genetic diversity and disease control in rice. Nature 406:718–722. doi:10.1038/35021046 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciencesEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations