Minimise food waste and make positive use of waste that cannot be avoided

It has been estimated that in Scotland in 2013 nearly 990,000 tonnes of food was wasted (


About half of this food waste comes from households and of this, about 60% is avoidable (ie the food could have been consumed if it had been planned, purchased, stored or otherwise manged differently in the home.   This wasted food accounts for around 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

 A further 25% of the waste occurred within the food and drink manufacturing industries.


  • consumers need education/help in planning food purchasing and storage as well as understanding the significance of ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates on food packaging
  • food retailers must be discouraged from encouraging over purchasing and should be required to dispose of ‘outdated’ food in constructive ways e.g. biogas generation (which could be linked to small scale combined heat and power schemes close to urban areas).
  • Local authorities should be required to collect domestic and trade food waste separately and feed this to biogas generation systems
  • A network of biogas generation plants should be established across Scotland, easily accessible to each population centre with minimal transport costs and emissions

Why the contribution is important

Minimising food waste minimises greenhouse gas production across the food production/processing/consumption system.  Most of the food waste that currently is sent to landfill will result in the generation of methane,  a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  If the unavoidable food waste is used as feedstock for biogas plants, the methane is captured and can be used as a fuel for vehicles such as busses or to generate electricity.  The latter is even more effective if the generation is part of a combined heat and power scheme which will use the surplus heat from the generating plant to provide hot water for local district heating schemes.  These will, of course, release carbon dioxide.  However, this is gas that was fixed from the atmosphere by plants in the very recent past, as opposed to many millions of years ago, so over a short time scale, the net increase on carbon dioxide will be very much less than if a fossil fuel had been burnt.

by MarkColyer on October 25, 2020 at 10:50PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.5
Based on: 4 votes


  • Posted by Gregor October 26, 2020 at 09:08

    Where are the food compost bins for those living in urban areas with gardens?
  • Posted by JohnH October 26, 2020 at 14:22

    We need to be mindful of a few issues here:
    - composting is not carbon neutral, it releases methane.
    - some food waste is good and means we are not using risky food (old chicken anyone?)
    - the push to reduce plastic packaging is increasing food spoiling and increasing carbon emissions as a result
  • Posted by MarkColyer October 26, 2020 at 14:45

    In response to JohnH, composting can indeed release methane. However I was advocating biodigestes in which the methane is captured and used. I dispute that food waste can be good - the example of old chicken would in fact be an example of poorly planned purchasing!
Log in or register to add comments and rate ideas