Environmental impact of avoidable food waste

Abbildung 1: Umweltbelastung in Umweltbelastungspunkten (UBP) pro Kilogramm Food Waste in Haushalten und in der Gastronomie. Je weiter oben die Lebensmittelkategorie in der Abbildung aufgeführt ist, desto grösser die Umweltbelastung pro Kilogramm. Wenn Food Waste weiterverwendet wird, kann bspw. Tierfutter oder Kompost eingespart werden. Der Umweltnutzen dieser Einsparungen wurde bei der Berechnung und in der Abbildung berücksichtigt. © BAFU

The Institute of Ecological Systems Design at ETH Zurich has calculated the environmental impact of avoidable food waste linked to food consumption in Switzerland. This impact could be avoided if the food were eaten rather than wasted, and therefore less food needed to be produced. In addition to the ecological impacts, food waste also has economic consequences. Discarded food generates costs all along the production and value chain, and it is ultimately consumers who pay those costs.

The environmental impact of one tonne of avoidable food waste varies greatly depending on its constituent products and where the wastage occurs in the value chain. Figure 1 shows how many environmental impact points (eco-points, or EPs) per kilogram of avoidable food waste are incurred by households and the catering industry. The priority should be to avoid wasting foods that cause particularly high environmental impacts or that generate large quantities of waste. In households and the catering industry, discarded bread and bakery products, fresh vegetables, pork and beef have the biggest environmental impact.

The food categories with the greatest environmental impact per kilogram of avoidable food waste are meat, coffee and cocoa beans, butter, eggs, products imported by plane, oils and fats, fish and cheese. Special care should be taken not to waste these products. Fruit, vegetable and potato losses are also environmentally significant, because although these products have a smaller environmental impact per kilogram, they are thrown away in large quantities. The size of the symbols in Figure 1 indicates the quantity of food lost in each category.

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