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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Interventions to increase circularity and reduce environmental impacts in food systems

van Selm, Benjamin; van Zanten, Hannah H. E.; Hijbeek, Renske; van Middelaar, Corina E.; Schop, Marijke; van Ittersum, Martin K.; de Boer, Imke J. M.


Applying specific circularity interventions to the food system may have environmental benefits. Using an iterative linear food system optimisation model (FOODSOM), we assess how changes in human diets, imports and exports, and the utilisation of waste streams impact land use and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). After including these circularity principles, land use and GHG emissions were on average 40% and 68% lower than in the current food system, primarily driven by a reduction in production volumes and a shift towards feeding the domestic population. Shifting from the current diet to a circular diet decreased land use with 43% and GHG emissions with 52%. Allowing up to half of each nutrient in the human diet to be imported, while balancing imports with equal exports in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, also decreased land use (up to 34%) and GHG emissions (up to 26%) compared to no imported food. Our findings show that circularity interventions should not be implemented mutually exclusively; by combining a circular diet with imported food and fully utilising waste streams, the lowest land use and GHG emissions can be realised.


Circular food systems; Dietary change; FOODSOM; GHG emissions; Land use

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2024, Volume: 53, number: 3, pages: 359-375
Publisher: SPRINGER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Other Environmental Engineering
    Environmental Sciences

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