Evaluating the life cycle costs (LCC) of food waste is a challenging task and few examples of previous LCC exist. This REFRESH report reviewed existing measures and methods for the evaluation of LCC of food waste. It conducted a comprehensive literature review to identify major methodological challenges related to cost modelling and externalities. The report contributes to the development of recommendations for a standardized system approach.
Analysis by defining four situations
To analyse the major methodological challenges, four situations focusing on food waste were defined and described:
- prevention at source
- co-product valorisation
- valorisation as part of waste management, and
- end of life treatment.
The literature review examined books, standards, scientific papers, reports, and other resources. It focussed on:
- Relevant definitions of Life Cycle Costing, with a focus on most recent approaches;
- Cases of application on food systems and food waste prevention, disposal, management, and valorisation;
- Commonly used/recommended method for key aspects;
- Areas of challenge/improvement.
Results of the literature review
The literature review showed that, amongst several cost evaluation approaches, the ”Environmental LCC” allows for the integration of costing techniques and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) into a comprehensive assessment. Nevertheless, only a few examples of the application of LCC for food waste scenarios were available and most of them focused on management scenarios for household food waste. Only one study encompassed prevention measures.
Results will feed into the development of further guidance
The report aims to contribute to the development of recommendations for a standardized system approach for integrating the life cycle cost and the environmental dimension of different measures regarding food waste (prevention, valorisation and waste management options).
Some of the identified gaps and challenges will be addressed in future REFRESH work. Specifically, further guidance will be provided on:
- Identification and characterization of appropriate functional units and system boundaries in accordance with LCA and coherent with the economic relevance of processes;
- Specific cost modelling, including categories, cost perspectives and discounting rates;
- Inclusion/exclusion criteria for food waste externalities, indirect effects, and trade-offs.
- This will be carried out by:
- Using REFRESH situations to elaborate on method choices;
- Including practitioners in LCC scoping;
- Identifying a set of questions that should be asked when scoping an LCC;
- Providing food waste specific examples.
De Menna, F., Loubiere, M., Dietershagen, J., Vittuari, M., Unger, N. 2016: Methodology for evaluating LCC. REFRESH Deliverable 5.2