Report on review of (food) waste reporting methodology and practice
The overall objective for the FUSIONS project (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising waste prevention Strategies) is to achieve a Resource Efficient Europe by significantly reducing food waste. This report is a based on the work carried out inthe FUSIONS Work Package (WP) 1 task 1.2 “quantitative techniques and data integrity” and is a literature review in order to explore the different methodologies which have been used for quantifying food waste in Europe and elsewhere. This report will together with the “Review of EUROSTATs reporting method and statistics” serve as a basis for development of a standard approach on quantitative techniques within the FUSIONS project.
As a basis for the literature review, an extensive literature search was carried out in February 2013, performed for each step of the food supply chain in order to examine different methods used and data sources. Then a working group selected principal studies for further review and evaluation, based on the findings in the extensive literature review and the summary reports for each step in the supply chain. This report gives a quantitative characterisation of the studies, according to data originality, methodological approach, waste categories etc., and a qualitative characterisation including experiences, data gaps and pros and cons of the utilized methods. The following methods were assessed:
Direct measurement and scanning
Waste composition analysis
Mass- and energy balance
Statistics from authorities or waste management companies
Food waste diary
The goals of this review were to clarify if the reviewed studies provide the necessary basis to develop harmonized and quantitative methods within FUSIONS as a basis for preventing food waste and to be able to measure and compare food waste levels between countries and over time; as well as to provide an overview of methods previously used and indicate data gaps. The review provides state of the art on waste reporting methodologies. Based on the review it was concluded that not one single method is applicable to all steps in the supply chain, covering all different purposes of studies with reliable data on food waste.
To fulfil the criteria it is therefore necessary to combine methods. The methods mentioned above have different focus, i.e. measuring and data gathering. The relevant methods for measuring food waste are direct measurement (weight or volume), scanning, composition waste analysis and diary. For data gathering the relevant methods are calculation methods from statistical data, interviews and surveys, mass- and energy balances and questionnaires.
Prevention of food waste is also an important issue but no of the above listed method have that as the main purpose. For most of the methods can be useful as a part of preventing food waste. The review showed also that to prevent food waste it is important 4 | FUSIONS Reducing food waste through social innovation to perform weighing at an adequate level of detail, involve employees in defining the root causes of food waste, develop ideas to prevent waste and follow indicators documenting trends in reductions.
The review identified data gaps in statistics on food waste from national authorities, particularly from developing countries and for the step “wholesale and logistics”. Data gaps have also been found in the different steps in the supply chain. A lot of data is available, but this varies widely through the supply chain. The quality of these data sets are also varying because the purpose of the data collection affects the extent and definitions, which in turn will affect the data. Methodological gaps have been identified for liquid food going down the drain and waste going to feed since these fractions can be difficult to measure by using the existing methods.
A limited number of studies have been conducted at an EU or global level using statistics as the data source. One of the conclusions from the review of the Eurostat waste statistics is that no common and harmonized methodologies for gathering of food waste data are prescribed, which makes it difficult to compare results from different studies and across national statistics. This literature review has shown that there are methods available which can deliver relevant and reliable data at a national level for each sector, but there is a need to harmonize those methods. To make statistics at EU level more comparable and transparent, it is necessary to describe methods and how to extrapolate these data sets for each sector to national figures for the entire value chain.
Looking at each step individually, the choice of the methods to be applied is related to the number of actors and the consolidation and structure of the food supply chain. Because of the wide variation in the number of actors along the supply chain it is necessary to adapt the quantifying method to each step. This implies that it is also necessary to adapt the extrapolation methods on the data for each step in the supply chain to obtain good and reliable data for the entire supply chain.
The waste categories used in the reviewed studies reflect the point in the supply chain the analysis is performed as food waste tends to become more heterogeneous as it progresses through the supply chain. In production and processing the amount of food waste is mainly characterised as products or product groups, whereas for food service and households it is characterised as edible/non edible food waste or total food waste. It is therefore also a need to get harmonised food waste categories.