The aim of this report is to review methodologies for evaluating the environmental sustainability dimension of food waste. Results from the review were analysed, paying special attention on several methodological aspects: functional unit, system boundaries, cut-off criteria, allocation, environmental impact categories, end-of-life, land use change, ecosystem services.
The purpose is to provide a basis for further REFRESH work on recommendations for evaluating the environmental impact, as well as life cycle costs, of different measures regarding food waste. Namely, prevention, valorization and waste management options. To establish and understand the main methodological challenges, four food waste scenarios were used covering: Prevention at source, valorisation maintaining quality, valorisation as part of waste management and end of life treatment.
The following questions guided research on existing standards, guidelines and Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) case studies:
- How much guidance exists on the evaluation of environmental impacts of food waste?
- What are the commonly used approaches for key methodological aspects?
- In what situations do methodological challenges / gaps / differences exist or become problematic?
- Is there consistency or consensus in results when comparing different types of documents, e.g. standards / protocols, case studies?
The literature review shows there are a number of documents for guidance when it comes to environmental assessment of products and services, and also guidance focused specifically on food systems. Some of those are very detailed and can be difficult for non-experts to comprehend, others are giving a lot of space for the practitioner to scope an LCA. Within REFRESH we therefore recommend that future work focus on bridging the gap between existing standard and guidance documents and practitioners, who might be experts on the systems they are assessing but not in LCA. We will do this by:
- Addressing some of the most challenging aspects identified from the literature review
- Providing many specific examples of food waste scenarios
- Using REFRESH situations to elaborate on method choices
- Encourage the practitioner to ask the important questions and thus improve the scoping of LCAs
- Provide a set of questions that should be asked when scoping an LCA
Unger N., Davis J., Loubiere M., Östergren K. 2016. Methodology for evaluating environmental sustainability. REFRESH Deliverable 5.1