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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Climate change impact of food distribution: The case of reverse logistics for bread in Sweden

Weber, L.; Bartek, L.; Brancoli, P.; Sjoelund, A.; Eriksson, M.


Efficient and purposeful transport of food, from primary production to waste management, is essential to drive the necessary transition towards sustainable production and consumption of food within planetary boundaries. This is particularly the case for bread, one of the most frequently wasted food items in Europe. In Sweden, bread is often sold under a take-back agreement where bakeries are responsible for transportation up to the supermarket shelf and for the collection of unsold products. This provides an opportunity for reverse logistics, but creates a risk of inefficient transport that could reduce the environmental benefits of prevention and valorization of surplus bread. This study assessed the climate change impact of bread transport in Sweden and evaluated the impact of alternative food transport pathways. Life cycle assessment revealed the climate change impact of conventional bread transport, from bakery gate to waste management, to be on average 49.0 g CO2e per kg bread with 68 % deriving from long-distance transport, 26 % from short-distance delivery, and 6 % from waste transport. Evalua-tion of alternative bread transport pathways showed the highest climate savings with a collaborative transport approach that also reduced the need for small vehicles and decreased transport distances. The overall contribu-tion of waste transport to the total climate impact of food transport was low for all scenario routes analyzed, sug-gesting that food waste management facilitating high-value recovery and valorization could be prioritized without increasing the climate impact due to longer transport. It has been claimed that conventional take-back agreements are responsible for most of the climate change impact related to bread transport, but we identified long distances between bakeries and retailers as the main contributor to transport climate impacts.(c) 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Institution of Chemical Engineers. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


Life cycle assessment (LCA); Resource recovery; Transport emissions; Valorization; Food transport; Take-back agreement

Published in

Sustainable Production and Consumption
2023, Volume: 36, pages: 386-396