Research Topic

The Value of Food Loss and Waste: Not All Food Is Created Equal

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Action on reducing food loss and waste is imperative to mitigate the impacts of climate change worldwide and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on food security, hunger eradication and sustainable production and consumption. It is widely agreed that what is not measured cannot be managed, least be ...

Action on reducing food loss and waste is imperative to mitigate the impacts of climate change worldwide and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on food security, hunger eradication and sustainable production and consumption. It is widely agreed that what is not measured cannot be managed, least be acted upon. Estimates and a number of actual measurements of food loss and waste, on a mass basis, have been compiled at a global and regional scale as well as throughout the food value chain. However, these do not necessarily follow methodologies with general consensus nor necessarily at highly disaggregated levels. A shared characteristic of all these figures is their uncertainty. This should not come as a surprise, given the high complexity and variability (geographical and temporal, to name key dimensions) intrinsic to the food system and its ways of working.

The objective of this Research Topic is to go beyond a linear approach to food loss and waste and to look at it from a systemic perspective, measuring it not just using the standardized metric of mass but multiple valuation frameworks. Consider, for example, nutritional value, environmental impact, social impact, costs (explicit and hidden), or potential for nutrient recycling, and the various points of view of the stakeholders in the food system. The premise is that better understanding of food loss and waste and potential interventions and solutions will come from multiple ways of analyzing and valuing it.

Consider the currently traditional and well-established food sub-systems: food preparation at home, out of home, institutional catering and hospitality services. Take into account transitory systems that support crisis relief, be it a climatological, geological or man-made event. Food loss and waste happens in plain sight, either by design or negligence. Can it be identified, revealed and valued using innovative methods and waste treatment technologies? Can scenarios with reduced or no food loss and waste be modeled, alongside the associated food system dynamics and trade-offs? Is food loss and waste necessary or acceptable for the proper functioning of a sustainable food system / sub-system? How can we interpret these findings so that they can drive action on food loss and waste reduction? What food loss and waste treatment technologies can be used as a pathway to generate value added?

Case studies of food systems at different scales will be covered, as well as multi-disciplinary valuation techniques and methods for food loss and waste.

Karen Cooper, Namy Espinoza Orias and Alexi Ernstoff are part of the FReSH project led by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and the EAT Foundation. Food Loss and Waste is one of the transformational goals within the FReSH project, with the objective of deploying the most impactful business
solutions at system level to reduce it. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic subject.


image credit: ©Bertrand Reuge


Keywords: food loss and waste, value, measurement, waste management technologies, food systems


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