Environmental Impacts and Hotspots of Food Losses: Value Chain Analysis of Swiss Food Consumption

Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Oct 3;51(19):11165-11173. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b06179. Epub 2017 Sep 20.


Reducing food losses and waste is crucial to making our food system more efficient and sustainable. This is the first paper that quantifies the environmental impacts of food waste by distinguishing the various stages of the food value chain, 33 food categories that represent the whole food basket in Switzerland, and including food waste treatment. Environmental impacts are expressed in terms of climate change and biodiversity impacts due to water and land use. Climate change impacts of food waste are highest for fresh vegetables, due to the large amounts wasted, while the specific impact per kg is largest for beef. Biodiversity impacts are mainly caused by cocoa and coffee (16% of total) and by beef (12%). Food waste at the end of the food value chain (households and food services) causes almost 60% of the total climate impacts of food waste, because of the large quantities lost at this stage and the higher accumulated impacts per kg of product. The net environmental benefits from food waste treatment are only 5-10% of the impacts from production and supply of the wasted food. Thus, avoiding food waste should be a first-line priority, while optimizing the method of treatment is less relevant.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Family Characteristics
  • Food Supply*
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Refuse Disposal*
  • Switzerland