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Energies 2019, 12(4), 767;

Energy Embedded in Food Loss Management and in the Production of Uneaten Food: Seeking a Sustainable Pathway

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Cantabria, Avda. De los Castros s/n, 39005 Santander, Spain
UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Pg. Pujades 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 December 2018 / Revised: 19 February 2019 / Accepted: 19 February 2019 / Published: 25 February 2019
PDF [2739 KB, uploaded 26 February 2019]


Recently, important efforts have been made to define food loss management strategies. Most strategies have mainly been focused on mass and energy recovery through mixed food loss in centralised recovery models. This work aims to highlight the need to address a decentralised food loss management, in order to manage the different fractions and on each of the different stages of the food supply chain. For this purpose, an energy flow analysis is made, through the calculation of the primary energy demand of four stages and 11 food categories of the Spanish food supply chain in 2015. The energy efficiency assessment is conducted under a resource use perspective, using the energy return on investment (EROI) ratio, and a circular economy perspective, developing an Energy return on investment – Circular economy index (EROIce), based on a food waste-to-energy-to-food approach. Results suggest that the embodied energy loss consist of 17% of the total primary energy demand, and related to the food categories, the vegetarian diet appears to be the most efficient, followed by the pescetarian diet. Comparing food energy loss values with the estimated energy provided for one consumer, it is highlighted the fact that the food energy loss generated by two to three persons amounts to one person's total daily intake. Moreover, cereals is the category responsible for the highest percentage on the total food energy loss (44%); following by meat, fish and seafood and vegetables. When the results of food energy loss and embodied energy loss are related, it is observed that categories such as meat and fish and seafood have a very high primary energy demand to produce less food, besides that the parts of the food supply chain with more energy recovery potential are the beginning and the end. Finally, the EROIce analysis shows that in the categories of meat, fish and seafood and cereals, anaerobic digestion and composting is the best option for energy recovery. From the results, it is discussed the possibility to developed local digesters at the beginning and end of the food supply chain, as well as to developed double digesters installations for hydrogen recovery from cereals loss, and methane recovery from mixed food loss. View Full-Text
Keywords: anaerobic digestion and composting; circular economy; energy return on investment; hydrogen bioenergy; food waste hierarchy anaerobic digestion and composting; circular economy; energy return on investment; hydrogen bioenergy; food waste hierarchy

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Hoehn, D.; Margallo, M.; Laso, J.; García-Herrero, I.; Bala, A.; Fullana-i-Palmer, P.; Irabien, A.; Aldaco, R. Energy Embedded in Food Loss Management and in the Production of Uneaten Food: Seeking a Sustainable Pathway. Energies 2019, 12, 767.

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