In 2016 the Clean Technology Centre was commissioned by the EPA to carry out a major research study on commercial food waste in Ireland.
The study identified significant food waste-generating commercial sectors in Ireland; investigated the quantity, character and sources of food waste in these sectors; compiled best practice in terms of food waste quantification and prevention; and developed sectoral food waste benchmarks.
The work was proposed to address the lack of detailed information on food waste in commercial businesses in Ireland. There is currently no formalised national food waste recording system despite the fact that an estimated 1 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually. This includes food wasted from processing, distribution, commerce and household consumption, of which 17% is attributed to commerce. It excludes farm-level food losses and fishing discards, on which there is almost no information.
The study not only improves the overall estimates of national food waste, but also provides fine-level detail on the types of food wasted and the reasons for that waste, as well as estimates for the cost of such food waste to each sector.
An extensive review of food waste quantification methodologies and guidance documents was carried out to inform the best methodology for use. Primary food waste data collection was performed through detailed, on-site, waste composition analyses.
Assessments were carried out in food service and food retail businesses across Ireland. Food waste was measured according to food type and waste type or source.
In total, 52 waste composition analyses were carried out in 45 commercial food businesses between June 2016 and September 2018. In addition to waste composition analyses, the project team gathered best practices in food waste prevention while on site. This information, along with the results of an international best practice review, has been used to develop food waste prevention guidance materials, published as part of this project (see https://foodwastecharter.ie/). The full research report is available at theEnvironmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Secure Archive for Environmental Research Data (SAFER) website.
This study provides (for the first time) meaningful and extensive information on the composition and sources of food waste in Ireland’s commercial food sector.
It provides information and best practices for those working in the food industry and relevant policymakers to facilitate a reduction in food waste, as well as reductions in its associated negative environmental, climate change, social and economic impacts.