Food stockpiling threatens huge environmental cost

In the UK, there is now £1 billion more food in people’s houses than three weeks ago.  This consumer stockpiling has led to unavailability of products for others, and there’s a real danger that if this food isn’t eaten, huge amounts of food waste will be created. 

Around a third of food for human consumption gets lost or wasted globally. This amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes a year. Consumer stockpiling caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus is threatening to significantly increase this food waste, according to research from Cranfield University.

Emel Aktas, Professor of Supply Chain Analytics, warns that the environmental cost could be high. In a statement from the university, he said: “If freezing is not practised with discipline, we are in immediate danger of increasing food waste since most of the products have a shelf life of four to seven days. This is the costliest, most detrimental outcome to the environment – we have used natural resources for the product itself and for its packaging, and emitted CO2 to make it available on the shelf for purchase.”

Professor Aktas continued that buying more than can be consumed within the shelf life of the product generates the costliest food waste which can be avoided by behaviour change. He cited our food choices, food shopping practices, and how much we think about what will happen to the food we buy.

“There is potential for increased levels of food surplus, as forecasting algorithms were developed in a more stable time. But the current volatility means that supply chain teams have to guess levels of demand. There are only two types of forecasting – lucky ones and wrong ones.  We are probably at a time where some people may have been lucky,” he concluded.

Image credit: Health Gauge/ CC BY 2.0

You may also like...

Leave a Reply