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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Environmental impacts of waste management and valorisation pathways for surplus bread in Sweden

Brancoli, Pedro; Bolton, Kim; Eriksson, Mattias


Bread waste represents a significant part of food waste in Sweden. At the same time, the return system established between bakeries and retailers enables a flow of bread waste that is not contaminated with other food waste products. This provides an opportunity for alternative valorisation and waste management options, in addition to the most common municipal waste treatment, namely anaerobic digestion and incineration. An attributional life cycle assessment of the management of 1 kg of surplus bread was conducted to assess the relative environmental impacts of alternative and existing waste management options. Eighteen impact categories were assessed using the ReCiPe methodology. The different management options that were investigated for the surplus bread are donation, use as animal feed, beer production, ethanol production, anaerobic digestion, and incineration. These results are also compared to reducing the production of bread by the amount of surplus bread (reduction at the source). The results support a waste hierarchy where reduction at the source has the highest environmental savings, followed by use of surplus bread as animal feed, donation, for beer production and for ethanol production. Anaerobic digestion and incineration offer the lowest environmental savings, particularly in a low-impact energy system. The results suggests that Sweden can make use of the established return system to implement environmentally preferred options for the management of surplus bread. (C) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.


Food waste; Bread; LCA; Waste hierarchy; Waste treatment; Prevention

Published in

Waste Management
2020, Volume: 117, pages: 136-145

    Associated SLU-program

    Food Waste

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Food Science
    Environmental Sciences
    Environmental Management

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)