Bread waste is an environmental villain

"A very large amount of food waste in grocery stores is bread. I could not imagine that bread, which is so light, would constitute such a large part," says Kim Bolton, Professor within Resource Recovery at the University of Borås.

Researchers from the university and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, together with Axfood (a food retailer) and Fazer Bakery, have focussed on bread waste and what preventative measures can be implemented that are ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable.

"The total amount of bread waste is 80,400 tonnes per year in Sweden. This includes the entire value chain, i.e. bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants, and households, etc.," says Pedro Brancoli, doctoral student in Resource Recovery at the University of Borås.

The waste corresponds to 350 loaves per minute

The fact that wastage occurs throughout the supply chain is remarkable. When it comes to other types of food waste, households play the largest part. The amount of 80,000 tonnes per year is equivalent to throwing away 350 loaves of bread per minute (the cost is SEK 2.4 billion per year if you calculate a cost of SEK 30 per kilo of bread).

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production (external link).
"The food waste area is relevant for Sweden, but it is also included in the UN's global goals for sustainable development," says Kim Bolton.

The researcher’s want to find a solution that is sustainable throughout the chain. The idea is not to shift the focus so that the bread is thrown away by households instead of in the stores.

"Our partners are doing a fantastic job by actually wanting to deal with this and take measures. They are also very keen to tell other bakeries and suppliers about the results,” says Kim Bolton.

An important work going forward will be to gather relevant actors, large bakeries, and food chains and create a solution to the problem.

"Something that we need to have more knowledge about is the economic costs; we do not know what costs there would be if we were to, for example, manufacture more ethanol from the bread waste. And that is something we are going to work on now," says Kim Bolton.

Based on earlier research

This project is based on earlier research where Pedro Brancoli, doctoral student, Kamran Rousta, Senior Lecturer, and Kim Bolton, Professor, all within Resource Recovery, together with a grocery store, examined how much food waste arises over the course of one year.

Thanks to the fact that a grocery store had collected data on all food waste that was thrown away, the researchers were able to analyse and make calculations about the waste. The result was then published in an article in the journal Recources, Conservation and Recycling; in 2018 it was the most downloaded article.

"We see that it is a relevant and current topic. And the interest for researchers in the field seems to be large," says Pedro Brancoli.

After the article was published, several interested grocery stores and bakeries contacted the researchers.

Read more

More about Kim Bolton

More about Kamran Rousta

More about Pedro Brancoli

Read the article Bread loss rates at the supplier-retailer interface – Analysis of risk factors to support waste prevention measures (external link)

Read the article Life cycle assessment of supermarket food waste (external link)

Text: Annie Klasén
Image: Mostphotos
Translation: Eva Medin