Skip to main content

Analysing global food waste problem: pinpointing the facts and estimating the energy content

Abstract

Food waste is a global problem. Each year food worth billions of dollars is wasted by the developed economies of the world. When food is wasted, the problem does not end at that point. More than 95% of the food waste ends at landfill sites, where converted into methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses by anaerobic digestion. The impact of food waste to climate change is catastrophic. Food waste problem tends to increase in next 25 years due to economic and population growth mainly in Asian countries. In addition, when food wastes buried at landfill sites their energy content is lost. Although food waste is a huge problem, its global size and extent has recently become a hot topic in the academic community. This paper summarises the size of the global food waste problem together with the estimation of the amount of energy lost when food wastes dumped at landfill sites. Calculations in this study also revealed that energy lost at landfill sites equals to 43% of the delivered energy used for the preparation of foods in the US, 37% of the hydroelectric power generation of Japan, and more than 100% of the current annual renewable energy demand of UK industries.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. [1]

    Anonymous, Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/fterms.html, 2008

  2. [2]

    Anonymous, Hunger Stats, United Nations World Food Program, https://www.wfp.org/hunger/ stats, 2012

  3. [3]

    Beede D. N., Bloom D. E., THE ECONOMICS OF MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE, The World Bank Research Observer 10, 1995, 113–150

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. [4]

    Heller M. C., Keoleian G. A., Assessing the sustainability of the US food system: a life cycle perspective, Agricultural Systems 76, 2003, 1007–1041

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. [5]

    Kantor L. S., Lipton K., Manchester A., Oliveira V., Estimating and Addressing America’s Food Losses, Food Review, 1997, 1–12

    Google Scholar 

  6. [6]

    Jones T. W., Analyzing retail food loss, Biocycle 46, 2005, 40–42

    Google Scholar 

  7. [7]

    Jones T. W., Using Contemporary Archaeology and Applied Anthropology to Understand Food Loss in the American Food System, In Community compost.com, 2006

    Google Scholar 

  8. [8]

    Jones T. W., FOOD LOSS AND THE AMERICAN HOUSEHOLD, In BioCycle, 2006, p 28

    Google Scholar 

  9. [9]

    Oliver R., Greenhouse Gas All About: Food waste, In CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/09/24/food.leftovers/, 2007

    Google Scholar 

  10. [10]

    Anonymous, The Food We Waste, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), ISBN: 1-84405-383-0, 2008

  11. [11]

    Anonymous, Household Food Waste, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), ISBN: 1-84405-430-6, 2009

  12. [12]

    Anonymous, Understanding Food Waste, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), 2007

  13. [13]

    Anonymous, New estimates for household food and drink waste in the UK, Food Waste, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/new-estimates-household-food-and-drink-waste-uk, 2011

  14. [14]

    Anonymous, Food Industry Sustainability Strategy, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom, http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb11649-fiss2006-060411.pdf, 2006

  15. [15]

    Thankappan S., From Fridge Mountains to Food Mountains? Tackling the UK Food Waste Problem, Cardiff University, http://www.ccels.cf.ac.uk/archives/issues/2005/thankappanjune.pdf, 2005

    Google Scholar 

  16. [16]

    Parry A., Food Waste Reduction: How Can Technology Help?, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Andrew%20Parry.pdf, 2007

    Google Scholar 

  17. [17]

    Kawashima T., The use of food waste as a protein source for animal feed — current status and technological development in Japan, In FAO Animal Production and Health Proceedings (FAO), Protein Sources for the Animal Feed Industry, Expert Consultation and Workshop, 1810-0732, no. 1, 2002, pp 303–311

    Google Scholar 

  18. [18]

    Nagata K., In Food Self-Sufficiency, Japan Needs Imports to Keep Itself Fed., The Japan Times Online, http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080226i1.html, 2009

    Google Scholar 

  19. [19]

    Zhang A. Y.-Z., Sun Z., Leung C. C. J., Han W., Lau K. Y., Li M., Lin C. S. K. Valorisation of bakery waste for succinic acid production, Green Chemistry, 2013, DOI: 10.1039/c2gc36518a

    Google Scholar 

  20. [20]

    Mao I. F., Tsai C.-J., Shen S.-H., Lin T.-F., Chen W.-K., Chen M.-L., Critical components of odors in evaluating the performance of food waste composting plants, Science of The Total Environment 370, 2006, 323–329

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. [21]

    Kim J.-D., Park J.-S., In B.-H., Kim D., Namkoong W., Evaluation of pilot-scale in-vessel composting for food waste treatment, Journal of Hazardous Materials 154, 2008, 272–277

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. [22]

    Khoo H. H., Lim T. Z., Tan R. B. H., Food waste conversion options in Singapore: Environmental impacts based on an LCA perspective, Science of The Total Environment 408, 2010, 1367–1373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. [23]

    Kirkpatrick S., Tarasuk V., The relationship between low income and household food expenditure patterns in Canada, Public Health Nutrition 6, 2003, 589–597

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. [24]

    Wenlock R. W., Buss D. H., Derry B. J., Dixon E. J., Household food wastage in Britain, British Journal of Nutrition 43, 1980, 53–70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. [25]

    Tjell J. C., Editorial: Is the ‘waste hierarchy’ sustainable?, Waste Management & Research 23, 2005, 173–174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. [26]

    Bai R., Sutanto M., The practice and challenges of solid waste management in Singapore, Waste Management 22, 2002, 557–567

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. [27]

    Sakai S., Sawell S. E., Chandler A. J., Eighmy T. T., Kosson D. S., Vehlow J., van der Sloot H. A., Hartlén J., Hjelmar O., World trends in municipal solid waste management, Waste Management 16, 1996, 341–350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. [28]

    Anonymous, Disposing of Animal by-products: Catering waste — Questions and answers. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Animal health and welfare, http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/byproducts/wastefood/caterwaste.htm, 2008

  29. [29]

    Schaub S. M., Leonard J. J., Composting: An alternative waste management option for food processing industries, Trends in Food Science & Technology 7, 1996, 263–268

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. [30]

    Rynk R., Composting Methods, On-farm Composting Handbook, 1992, pp 24–42

    Google Scholar 

  31. [31]

    Chang J. I., Tsai J. J., Wu K. H., Thermophilic composting of food waste, Bioresource Technology 97, 2006, 116–122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. [32]

    Adhikari B. K., Barrington S., Martinez J., King S. Characterization of food waste and bulking agents for composting, Waste Management 28, 2008, 795–804

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. [33]

    Adhikari B. K., Barrington S., Martinez J. Predicted growth of world urban food waste and methane production, Waste Management & Research 24, 2006, 421–433

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. [34]

    Einola J.-K. M., Karhu A. E., Rintala J. A., Mechanically-biologically treated municipal solid waste as a support medium for microbial methane oxidation to mitigate landfill greenhouse emissions, Waste Management 28, 2008, 97–111

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. [35]

    Adhikari B. K., Barrington S. F., Martinez J., Urban Food Waste generation: challenges and opportunities, International Journal of Environment and Waste Management 3, 2009, 4–21

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. [36]

    Ozkaya B., Chlorophenols in leachates originating from different landfills and aerobic composting plants, Journal of Hazardous Materials 124, 2005, 107–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. [37]

    Anonymous, Food Waste is Environmental Sleeping Giant Says WRAP, In Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), accessed in 2008 from http://www.wrap.org.uk/wrap_corporate/news/food_waste_is.htm, 2007

  38. [38]

    Anonymous, Electricity from Municipal Solid Waste, In Municipal Solid Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), http: //www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/municipal-sw.html, 2008

  39. [39]

    Lin C. S. K., Pfaltzgraff L. A., Herrero-Davila L., Mubofu E. B., Solhy A., Clark P. J., Koutinas A., Kopsahelis N., Stamatelatou K., Dickson F., Thankappan S., Zahouily M., Brocklesby R., Luque R., Food waste as a valuable resource for the production of chemicals, materials and fuels. Current situation and global perspective, Energy & Environmental Science 6, 2013, 426–464

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. [40]

    Faaij A., van Doorn J., Curvers T., Waldheim L., Olsson E., van Wijk A., Daey-Ouwens C., Characteristics and availability of biomass waste and residues in The Netherlands for gasification, Biomass and Bioenergy 12, 1997, 225–240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. [41]

    Meraz L., Domínguez A., Kornhauser I., Rojas F., A thermochemical concept-based equation to estimate waste combustion enthalpy from elemental composition, Fuel 82, 2003, 1499–1507

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. [42]

    Unruh B., Delivered Energy Consumption Projections by Industry, in the Annual Energy Outlook 2002, http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/analysispaper/industry/consumption.html, 2002

    Google Scholar 

  43. [43]

    Boys J. T., Covic G. A., Green A. W., Stability and control of inductively coupled power transfer systems, IEE Proceedings: Electric Power Applications 147, 2000, 37–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carol Sze Ki Lin.

Additional information

This article is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Ruohang Wang, our collaborator and beloved friend, who passed away in July 2010

About this article

Cite this article

Melikoglu, M., Lin, C.S.K. & Webb, C. Analysing global food waste problem: pinpointing the facts and estimating the energy content. cent.eur.j.eng 3, 157–164 (2013). https://doi.org/10.2478/s13531-012-0058-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Energy content
  • Environment
  • Food waste
  • Greenhouse Gases
  • Hunger
  • Waste management