Food Waste Management by Life Cycle Assessment of the Food Chain


  • Edited by Manfred Kroger, Ph. D., Editor of the Proceedings of the 12th World Congress of Food Science and Technology


ABSTRACT: In the past, environmental activities in the food industry used to be focused on meeting the requirements set by authorities on waste and sewage disposal and, more recently, regarding emissions to air. Today environmental issues are considered an essential part of the corporate image in progressive food industries. To avoid sub-optimization, food waste management should involve assessing the environmental impact of the whole food chain. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an ISO-standardized method to assess the environmental impact of a food product. It evaluates the resources used to perform the different activities through the chain of production from raw material to the user step. It also summarizes the emission/waste to air, water, and land from the same activities throughout the chain. These emissions are then related to the major environmental concerns such as eutrophication, acidification, and ecotoxicity, the factors most relevant for the food sector. The food industry uses the LCAs to identify the steps in the food chain that have the largest impact on the environment in order to target the improvement efforts. It is then used to choose among alternatives in the selection of raw materials, packaging material, and other inputs as well as waste management strategies. A large number of food production chains have been assessed by LCAs over the years. This will be exemplified by a comparison of the environmental impact of ecologically grown raw materials to those conventionally grown. Today LCA is often integrated into process and product development, for example, in a project for reduction of water usage and waste valorization in a diversified dairy.