Reducing global food loss and waste could improve air quality and lower the risk of premature mortality

Alessandro Gatto, Maksym Chepeliev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

While the global food system substantially contributes to environmental degradation and climate change, significant amounts of lost or wasted foods along the food supply chain actively contribute to global air pollution and related health risks. In this study, we use an environmentally-extended input-output model to quantify air pollution embedded in global food loss and waste (FLW) and investigate how FLW reduction policies can mitigate air pollution linked to food consumption, decreasing associated premature mortality risks across global regions. While estimating a positive impact of FLW reduction policies on decreasing air pollution levels (from −1.5% of SO2 emissions to −10.2% of NH3 emissions) and mortality reductions (over 67 000 lives worldwide) our findings highlight that rebound effects, wherein a reallocation of consumption from food to non-food commodities, decrease health and environmental benefits by over three quarters (compared to the case with no rebound). Such rebound effects can be substantially mitigated when final consumption shifts towards less pollution-intensive products, such as service activities, rather than conforming to the current composition of non-food consumption. Our results suggest that FLW-related policies would benefit from complementary measures that incentivize sustainable non-food consumption to effectively foster the transition towards a healthier and more sustainable planet.

Original languageEnglish
Article number014080
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • air pollution
  • food loss and waste
  • health co-benefits
  • multi-region input-output
  • rebound effect

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