Environmental impact analysis of food and food losses

As high-priority flows in lifecycle-based waste policy

In the Netherlands’ Second National Waste Management Programme lifecycle-based management had been adopted as a new strategy. During this second planning period (2009-2015) the strategy is to be elaborated for seven high-priority material flows, with a ballpark figure of 20% being adopted for the reduction in life cycle environmental impact to be achieved by the year 2015.

One of these material flows is ‘food and food losses’. The overall environmental burden associated with food produced for Dutch consumption could be reduced by 15% if there were zero losses at the consumer end of the cycle. This would also mean additional gains of around 1% owing to savings on the associated packaging. For food and food residues the environmental impact of waste processing is negligible (under 1%). All in all, packaging contributes around 12% to environmental burdens. Consumption of animal protein, including losses, is responsible for over 50% of the total impact.

A reduction of around 10% in aggregate environmental burden between now and 2015 is feasible, about half of this through efficiency improvements in the production phase. The rest of the envisaged reduction will require efforts to encourage behavioural change, to achieve a limited change in protein consumption patterns. This kind of reduction is equivalent to an individual reduction of around 900 car-kilometres per year (a 5% reduction).

report (in Dutch)

Delft, January 2010