A study published by FUSIONS "Report on review of (food) waste reporting methodology and practice" in January 2014 explores, through an extensive and thorough literature review, the different methodologies which have been used for quantifying food waste in Europe and elsewhere.

Together with another FUSIONS study (Review of EUROSTATs reporting method and statistics) published in June 2013, it serves as a basis for the development of a harmonised approach on quantitative techniques within the FUSIONS project. The homogeneisation of food waste quantification is a pressing issue, considering that global consequences of food waste stretches from environmental pressures to economic and social impacts.


A) Food waste estimations: data collection and data reporting methods

  • FUSIONS food waste data set

FUSIONS results indicate that EU-28 produce about 100 Mtonnes of food waste every year, and that about 45% of this is generated from households. This estimate is for 2012. The data has been obtained using a combination of national waste statistics and findings from selected research studies and was aligned with FUSIONS Definitional Framework. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of current food waste for EU in 2011 is estimated to at least around 227 MT of CO2-Equivalentes (Eq.). This is 16% of the total GWP of food utilization in EU in 2011.

The amounts will be presented in detail via a final FUSIONS report "Food waste data set for EU-28" in spring 2016.

A key recommendation from this exercise for accurately quantifying food waste in EU-28 is to increase the number of EU member states that measure food waste robustly. This recommendation applies to all sectors; however, the lack of data was particularly acute for the primary production sector. A more reliable estimate can be achieved by ensuring that those studies that do take place use a consistent definitional framework and definition of food waste, have robust sampling procedures in place, and use measurement methods that are accurate. FUSIONS is taking necessary actions in order to facilitate this work outlining further the practical application of the principles, developing a Quantification Manual (to be published in February 2016), and encouraging member states to have structures in place for regular food waste quantification studies.

You can find the document on FUSIONS Publications page.

  • Data collection: methodology and practice

The analysis of (food) waste reporting methodology and practice (FUSIONS, 2014) provided notable results: reviewed studies reveal that no single method, applicable to all steps in the supply chain and covering the criteria, is currently available. As a consequence, it is necessary to combine different methods to fulfil the criteria.

In terms of methodology, the review shows that these different methods are applicable for different steps of the food supply chain. For example, direct measurement is mainly used at the production (together with calculation method from statistical data) and processing stages. Scanning (via bar codes) and questionnaires are used at the processing, wholesale & logistics, retail & market, and redistribution stages. Weighting is also frequently used at these different stages of the supply chain. Concerning food service and households, the review found that the methods are waste composition analysis and diaries (which both use sampling).

In terms of quality of data, the study found consistent data gaps. For example, it is common that liquid food going down the drain and fractions going to feed are not identified as food waste. A substantial factor challenging the quality of data sets is the purpose of collection, which affects both the definition and extent of food waste.

  • Data reporting: methods and statistics

In the EU, all countries can decide on their own methodological framework for waste statistics, hampering the possibility to conduct a cross-national (on a detailed level) interpretation of waste figures.

The review of EUROSTAT’s reporting method and statistics (FUSIONS, 2013) was aimed at evaluating how national waste statistics in Europe related to food waste are registered and reported, at assessing how they are further used by Eurostat to establish a common European statistical basis for waste statistics, and at giving input to how FUSIONS can contribute to the methodological basis for these statistics. The evaluation found that formal and methodological elements obstruct the use of statistics to create reliable time series on waste data for several reasons and provided recommendations to move towards greater statistical harmonisation.


B) Towards the harmonisation of food waste quantification

Providing robust and reliable food waste quantification standards is a global challenge, which can have major impacts in terms of accountability and reporting, food security, resource efficiency and environmental health. Measuring food waste accurately would help reducing food waste by raising enabling companies to increase their accountability on this topic and policy makers to shape well-tailored (and integrated) public policies to tackle the issue. It is also a very complex task, due to the lack of available harmonised data and statistics, and to the multifaceted nature of food waste generation.

  • The Food Loss and Waste Protocol

The Food Loss & Waste Protocol (FLW Protocol) is a multi-stakeholder effort to develop the global accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food and associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain.

Development of the FLW Protocol is being coordinated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in conjunction with the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), FAO, FUSIONS, UNEP, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and WRAP.

The draft version of the FLW Standard was published online in March 2015 for consultation. The final draft will be published in January 2016.

  • FUSIONS Quantification Manual

FUSIONS is currently working on a Food Waste Quantification Manual, to be published in February 2016. The Manual provides practical guidelines for Member States on the quantification of food waste at different steps of the supply chain.

These guidelines cover three main activities:

  1. Quantifying food waste in each sector (i.e. step) of the food chain;
  2. Combining sectorial quantifications using a common framework at national level; and,
  3.  Reporting the results of the national food waste quantification study at country level and possibly to the European Commission.

The Manual is aimed principally at the Member State authorities[1]. Its goal is to support these authorities in developing coherent methods for acquiring national food waste data covering all sectors of the food chain. It can also be used as a reference by researchers collecting data on behalf of national authorities as well as national statistical offices.

The Manual will be published in February 2016.


[1] In practice, it may be for instance, Agriculture or Environment Ministries / Agencies but also MS authorities working in the field of waste (or resource) management, food price/food security management.

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