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Doctoral thesis2024Open access

Sustainability of food waste prevention through food consumption

Sundin, Niina


Food is wasted in unacceptable amounts and an epidemic of overeating is sweeping the world, while billions of people suffer from food insecurity. In Sweden, retailers waste around 89,000 tons and public caterers 37,000 tons annually, comprising mostly edible food. Halving food waste at the consumption level faces challenges due to complex root causes. A stronger focus on food waste prevention is needed, but existing measures lack empirical evidence of their reduction potential and sustainability impacts. These gaps were addressed in this thesis by assessing two reduction measures, surplus food redistribution and plate waste prevention in school meals. Using diverse methods, such as surveys, life cycle assessment, material flow analysis and nutritional calculations, the food waste reduction potential and environmental, economic and social impacts of the measures were evaluated. The magnitude and climate impact of food overconsumption, i.e. metabolic food waste, was also analysed. The results revealed high environmental impact of overeating, corresponding to up to 10% of food-related climate impact in Sweden. The redistribution system proved effective, with approximately 78% of donated food eaten. Donations also outcompeted anaerobic digestion in environmental impact mitigation despite substantial rebound effects, while adding social stakeholder value. Educational approaches, including plate waste tracker and serving popular instead of unpopular school meals, showed great long-term reduction potential for plate waste (~19%). Overall, the results indicated high importance of limiting food overconsumption from both a health and environmental perspective and showed that redirecting edible food waste to people can protect the environment and provide valuable nutrients, accruing potential health benefits.


food systems; surplus food redistribution; public catering; school meals; metabolic food waste; life cycle assessment; climate impact; sustainable nutrition

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2024, number: 2024:53ISBN: 978-91-8046-046-0, eISBN: 978-91-8046-047-7
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Management

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