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Why the food waste hierarchy is misleading to sustainable use of food

Abstract : Waste management thinking, such as the 3 R approach, has driven scientific communities and political decision-makers to the conviction that a hierarchy is useful to guide the sustainable management of food. However, documents advocating food waste management guidelines and the related scientific literature show contrasting approaches to terminology, waste management categories and the suggested solutions with respect to the target of sustainable management of food. We have performed a review of the international scientific literature published in English in the period from 2000 onwards. We used the key terms “food waste”, “waste prevention”, “recycling”, “waste hierarchy” and “resource efficiency” to probe different data bases (e.g. Web of Science, Scopus, Google scholar etc.). We have identified several limits in terms of how the question is positioned and analyzed : i) the scientific literature is inconclusive as regards the relevance of the hierarchy and mostly has looked at part of solutions, ii) the hierarchy is criticized for a narrow view on environmental outcomes only, ignoring social and economic aspects and arising undesirable effects, iii) food is considered as a bulk of material disregarding its composition, the different stakeholders and framing situations leading to its discard, suggesting a “one-recipe-fits-all” solution. Beyond these limits we address a more fundamental critique on the legitimacy and the relevance of food waste hierarchies: their normative character does not allow a discussion space on societies’ priorities for material use. The underlying management posture does not question the current rationale of food waste generation and its enabling environment in industrialized societies. We open perspectives for areas of research that could lead to more sustainable food use.
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Contributor : Migration Prodinra <>
Submitted on : Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 10:53:48 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - 2:56:52 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02785376, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 474612



Barbara Redlingshofer. Why the food waste hierarchy is misleading to sustainable use of food. IBG Annual International Conference, Royal Geographical Society., Aug 2018, Cardiff, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-02785376⟩



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