What are the environmental benefits and costs of reducing food waste? Bristol as a case study in the WASTE FEW Urban Living Lab Project

Eleanor Eaton, Alistair Hunt, Anastasia Di Leo, Daniel Black, Gwen Frost, Sarah Hargreaves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


The city of Bristol currently generates around 48,000 tonnes of household food waste every year. This waste incurs loss of resources and environmental damage throughout the food cycle. In this paper we quantify and value the baseline socio-environmental impacts from household food waste in Bristol before examining the potential costs and benefits that may result from changes to food waste behaviour. In so doing, we look to better inform the choice of food waste reduction methods in public policy. The environmental impacts of two possible policy targets are explored: (1) a 20% increase in food waste recycling and (2) an overall decrease in food waste of 20%. Environmental impacts are estimated for 13 different hazards, including Global Warming Potential, Particulate Matter, Human Toxicity and Water Depletion. The societal consequences of these environmental changes are monetised using non-market values which allows us to directly compare the relative importance of different environmental impacts and the trade-offs between these impacts in each scenario. For example, we estimate that the Global Warming Potential of Bristol’s annual food waste equates to around 110,000 tonnes CO2, or 25,000 additional cars on the road every year. We find that a 20% improvement in recycling behaviour would lead to an annual reduction of 113 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, whilst a 20% reduction in food waste would result in an annual reduction of 15,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent. Findings suggest that the environmental impact of waste management is significantly overshadowed by the impact of resources used in food production and distribution before it becomes waste.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5573
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The WASTE FEW ULL project was funded by JPI Europe and the Belmont Forum’s Sustainable Urbanization Global Initiative. The Bristol ULL was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant number ES/S002243/1, and AHRC, Innovate UK, RCN and NSF.

Data Availability Statement
Data on quantities of collected waste are available from www.wastedataflow.org (accessed on 22 March 2022). Restrictions apply to the availability of data relating to composition of avoidable and unavoidable food waste in Bristol. Data were obtained from Bristol Waste Company and are available from the authors with the permission of Bristol Waste Company and Resource Futures.


  • environmental economics
  • food waste
  • food–energy–water nexus
  • non-market valuation
  • resource efficiency
  • urban living lab
  • waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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