Food waste management during the COVID-19 outbreak: a holistic climate, economic and nutritional approach

R. Aldaco, D. Hoehn, J. Laso, M. Margallo, J. Ruiz-Salmón, J. Cristobal, R. Kahhat, P. Villanueva-Rey, A. Bala, L. Batlle-Bayer, P. Fullana-i-Palmer, A. Irabien, I. Vazquez-Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations

Abstract

Improving the food supply chain efficiency has been identified as an essential means to enhance food security, while reducing pressure on natural resources. Adequate food loss and waste (FLW) management has been proposed as an approach to meet these objectives. The main hypothesis of this study is to consider that the “strong fluctuations and short-term changes” on eating habits may have major consequences on potential FLW generation and management, as well as on GHG emissions, all taking into account the nutritional and the economic cost. Due to the exceptional lockdown measures imposed by the Spanish government, as a consequence of the emerging coronavirus disease, COVID-19, food production and consumption systems have undergone significant changes, which must be properly studied in order to propose strategies from the lessons learned. Taking Spain as a case study, the methodological approach included a deep analysis of the inputs and outputs of the Spanish food basket, the supply chain by means of a Material Flow Analysis, as well as an economic and comprehensive nutritional assessment, all under a life cycle thinking approach. The results reveal that during the first weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, there was no significant adjustment in overall FLW generation, but a partial reallocation from extra-domestic consumption to households occurred (12% increase in household FLW). Moreover, the economic impact (+11%), GHG emissions (+10%), and the nutritional content (−8%) complete the multivariable impact profile that the COVID-19 outbreak had on FLW generation and management. Accordingly, this study once again highlights that measures aimed at reducing FLW, particularly in the household sector, are critical to make better use of food surpluses and FLW prevention and control, allowing us to confront future unforeseen scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140524
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume742
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Eating habits
  • Food loss waste (FLW)
  • GHG emissions
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Nutritional impact

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