A methodology for sustainable management of food waste

As much as one third of the food intentionally grown for human consumption is never consumed and is therefore wasted, with significant environmental, social and economic ramifications. An increasing number of publications in this area currently consider different aspects of this critical issue, and generally focus on proactive approaches to reduce food waste, or reactive solutions for more efficient waste management. In this context, this paper takes a holistic approach with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the different types of food waste, and using this knowledge to support informed decisions for more sustainable management of food waste. With this aim, existing food waste categorizations are reviewed and their usefulness are analysed. A systematic methodology to identify types of food waste through a nine-stage categorization is used in conjunction with a version of the waste hierarchy applied to food products. For each type of food waste characterized, a set of waste management alternatives are suggested in order to minimize environmental impacts and maximize social and economic benefits. This decision-support process is demonstrated for two case studies from the UK food manufacturing sector. As a result, types of food waste which could be managed in a more sustainable manner are identified and recommendations are given. The applicability of the categorisation process for industrial food waste management is discussed.