Life cycle assessment of food loss and waste in the food supply chain

Yetunde Omolayo, Beth J. Feingold, Roni A. Neff, Xiaobo Xue Romeiko

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Addressing food loss and waste (FLW) globally is critical for both improving food security and mitigating environmental pollution. While there are numerous studies addressing FLW in terms of nutrition, food security, food safety, public health and the economy, there is only a small body of life cycle assessment (LCA) research aimed at understanding impacts from FLW. We conducted a literature review of LCA studies focused on FLW in the food supply chain (FSC) to ascertain the state of the science and identify the research gaps. We identified 22 original research articles that met our search criteria and spanned the four stages of LCA. Regarding the goal and scope, there were a dearth of studies focused on the top of the waste hierarchy (prevention). Further, we identified a research gap in studies that accounted for avoided production from food waste management in the overall LCA and distinguished between avoidable and unavoidable waste streams. LCA studies to date largely used a mass-basis as the functional unit and were limited in terms of spatial and temporal specificity. Within the life cycle inventory, most of the studies were conducted in Europe and only one study in the US. In addition, some of the studies lack data transparency. The life cycle impact assessment phase showed that most of the studies only assess global warming potential with fewer studies evaluating energy, water demand and human toxicity. Lastly, within life cycle interpretation more than half of the studies focus on at least one of the three types of uncertainties supporting more informed policy decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105119
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Volume164
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Environmental impacts
  • Food loss and waste
  • Food supply chain
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics

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