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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Rebound effects could offset more than half of avoided food loss and waste

Hegwood, Margaret; Burgess, Matthew G. G.; Costigliolo, Erin M. M.; Smith, Pete; Bajzelj, Bojana; Saunders, Harry; Davis, Steven J. J.


Reducing food loss and waste (FLW) could lessen the environmental impacts of food systems and improve food security. However, rebound effects-whereby efficiency improvements cause price decreases and consumption increases-may offset some avoided FLW. Here we model rebounds in food consumption under a scenario of costless FLW reduction. We project that consumption rebound could offset 53-71% of avoided FLW. Such rebounds would imply similar percentage reductions in environmental benefits (carbon emissions, land use, water use) and improvements in food security benefits (increased calorie availability), highlighting a tension between these two objectives. Evidence from energy systems suggests that indirect effects not included in our analysis could further increase rebounds. However, costs of reducing FLW would reduce rebounds. Rebound effects are therefore important to consider in efforts aimed at reducing FLW.Efficiency improvements that cause price decreases and consumption increases may offset the benefits of avoided food loss and waste (FLW), hindering progress towards SDG 12. Based on published income-group- and food-type-specific price elasticities of supply and demand, this study quantifies the direct rebound effects from large reductions in FLW of six types of food.

Published in

Nature Food
2023, Volume: 4, number: 7, pages: 585–595 Publisher: NATURE PORTFOLIO

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger
    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Energy Systems
    Food Science

    Publication identifier


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