Impacts and costs of embodied and nutritional energy of food waste in the US food system: Distribution and consumption (Part B)

By: Authors: Marco Pagani, Fabio De Menna, Thomas G. Johnson, Matteo Vittuari. (RPLC members)


Apple, Harvest, Bio, Garden, Bag Of Fruit, Food, Graze

An efficient energy use in the food supply chain (FSC) is a major policy priority, considering the dual challenge of decreasing non-renewable resource availability and increasing world population. This article is one of two that analyzes the concept of the “dual energy waste” caused by food losses and waste (FLW): (i) nutritional energy and (ii) embodied energy used to produce food. Part A focused on the upstream segments (production, transport, and processing) of the United States FSC. In Part B the downstream segments (distribution, transport, home and out-of-home consumption) are analyzed. All direct and indirect energy inputs involved in food produced for domestic use in the USA were considered. From 2001 to 2015 the average energy use in the downstream part of FSC was 6,000 ± 550 PJ (about 5.8% of total energy use), while FLW were estimated at 57.8 Mt. This caused 370 PJ of nutritional energy waste, 2,250 PJ of embodied energy waste, and a wasted energy cost of almost $28 billion. Animal products represented only 34% of the FLW mass but generated 60% of the embodied energy waste.

Appropriate food waste reduction strategies such as improved demand forecasts, more efficient product handling, discounted price on nearly expired foods, clearer product-life labeling, and more careful planning by consumers, could achieve energy saving and reduce the United States fossil fuel dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

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