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From Farm to Kitchen: Environmental Impacts of Food Waste (Part 1)
Kenny, S., J. Stephenson, AND K. Jaglo. From Farm to Kitchen: Environmental Impacts of Food Waste (Part 1). U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC, 2021.
Synthesize the latest science regarding the environmental impacts of U.S. food waste and potential benefits of meeting national Food Loss and Waste Reduction goal to halve food waste by 2030
Wasted food is a major global environmental, social, and economic challenge. To address this challenge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) set the 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal to halve food waste by 2030, in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Target 12.3. In this paper, EPA synthesizes available literature to assess the environmental impacts (agricultural land use, use of water, energy, pesticides and fertilizer, and greenhouse gas emissions) of food waste and the potential environmental benefits of meeting the reduction goal. Part 1 focuses on the cradle-to-consumer impacts of food waste, while the forthcoming Part 2 focuses upon the impacts of waste management pathways such as landfills. The report finds that each year, U.S. food waste embodies 140 million acres agricultural land, 5.9 trillion gallons blue water, 778 million pounds of pesticides, 14.3 billion pounds fertilizer, 665 billion kWh energy, and 169 million MTCO2e GHG emissions (excluding landfill emissions). To maximize the environmental benefits of food waste reduction initiatives, the report suggests focus on (1) source reduction rather than recycling, (2) food waste from households, restaurants and food processing sector, and (3) waste of resource-intensive foods such as animal products and fruits and vegetables. The report concludes by noting the need for additional research on the following topics in order to support development of successful food waste programs and policies: (1) characteristics and unique drivers of U.S. food waste, (2) method to more frequently track U.S. food waste, (3) impact of waste of imported foods, (4) interaction among food supply chain stages with regard to food waste, (5) food system trends that may impact food waste.