Our research in the REAMIT project (www.reamit.eu), conducted at the University of Essex along with the University of Bedfordshire and several other partners in the UK and in the EU, shows that a digital technology oriented food waste strategy can help in our fight against food waste, thereby help secure a greener future by improving food security and environmental resilience. Based on the evidence obtained in our work, we suggest two concrete policy options for reducing food waste.
1. A significant part of food waste occurring in supply chains (transportation, storage and distribution) can be avoided if modern smart IoT sensors are used to track and continuously monitor the temperature and other conditions in which food is transported and stored (Ramanathan, U. et al., 2022; Gillspie et al., 2023). Thus, the policy option is that food companies should be encouraged to utilise the promises of technological solutions to reduce food waste in their supply chains.
2. While a good proportion of food is wasted in food supply chains, food firms tend to internalise these losses and hence are not very much conscious about this food loss (Ramanathan, R. et al., 2023). If the government encourages food firms to measure food waste, record, and compare levels over time, it will help firms to think about food waste more clearly. Currently there is no legal framework to report food waste measurement (Al-Tamimi et al., 2023). When the true costs of food waste is captured in the decision-making processes of food companies, they will be able to take every effort to protect food and reduce waste. This could be a part of UK's food waste strategy and policy.
These policy actions will have several benefits.
- Increased economic benefits as more food is available for sale and consumption
- Increased resilience of the UK food supply chain system against climate and geopolitical shocks such as Brexit, the Ukraine crisis or a global pandemic
- Increased support for those in need
- Increased climate efficiency on the way to a net-zero economy as food waste not saved will end up in landfill and emit significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Around 9.5 million tonnes of food was wasted in the UK in 2018 (Dray, 2021). This is a huge amount, and a part of this waste in food supply chains can be avoided using relatively inexpensive strategies using modern digital technologies (Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, big data, cloud computing, and analytics). However, these technologies have not been adequately integrated in the UK's food waste strategy so far. We sincerely hope that the above suggested changes in the UK's food waste strategy will help achieve UK's net zero targets and its commitment to halve food waste by 2030 (UN Strategic Development Goal 12.3).
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