Bananas are some of the worst food waste culprits

January 30, 2018, Karlstad University
Credit: Karlstad University

A study done at Karlstad University shows that seven products account for almost half the fruit and vegetables wasted by retailers. Potentially, food waste can be drastically limited by focusing on these products.

"Retailers may profit by allocating more staff hours to measures that lead to reduced fruit and vegetable waste, thereby saving money and the environment," says Lisa Mattsson at Karlstad University.

Today involves not only wasted natural resources, but also financial losses. A growing population means that all actors in society – business, government agencies and citizens – have to handle food better to decrease the amounts that are wasted.

A few products account for half of the waste costs

Less food is wasted in retail than in households, but also waste large amounts of food each year. In this study, the fruit and vegetable waste of three large retailers was analysed based on quantity, economic and the impact on the climate. The results show that seven categories of fruit and vegetable account for most of the waste as regards quantity, costs and the impact on the climate. These seven are bananas, apples, tomatoes, salad, sweet peppers, pears and grapes. Together, these products account for almost 50 percent of what food waste cost the retailers. Focusing on decreasing the waste of these products could therefore potentially have great effects.

Waste reduction strategies are profitable

Most of the costs associated with food waste, around 85 percent, are related to the products themselves. The cost of waste management, such as emptying and removing waste, amounts to around 6 percent, while the staff hours spent removing products from the shelves, recording waste and disposing of products represent another 9 percent of the total cost. Since staff hours are a relatively small part in comparison to the cost of the products themselves, increasing staff hours to reduce food waste has much potential. A cost-benefit analysis showed that the costs incurred to double the amount of time staff spend on waste reduction measures, would be the equivalent of a 10 percent reduction in fruit and vegetable waste.

The study on the of and vegetables by retailers was published online in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Explore further: Some smart ways to jumpstart your recycling program

More information: Lisa Mattsson et al. Waste of fresh fruit and vegetables at retailers in Sweden – Measuring and calculation of mass, economic cost and climate impact, Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.10.037

Related Stories

Some smart ways to jumpstart your recycling program

January 25, 2018

(HealthDay)—Working toward a healthier environment involves more than separating glass and plastic. Try a new take on the three "R's"—recycle, reduce and reuse—to save money, energy and natural resources.

UK bottom of European avoidable food waste league

August 11, 2015

The UK produces the highest amount of avoidable food waste in Europe—equivalent to a tin of beans per person per day. Those are the findings from a team of researchers based at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European ...

Recommended for you

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 30, 2018
Those are all the soft fruits that don't come in hard protective packaging. The problem is the customers smashing and ripping everything to get the one piece they want, then throwing everything else back and damaging all the items they didn't already destroy.

Package these things at the packing plant in clear, protective cases. Display them so all sides are visible, so customers won't need to and can't just smash everything.

Yes, that would take more display space. But you could display less at a time, and replenish more often. If you have a truck coming every day anyway, the warehouse can just pack the truck with pre-populated display stands. Store staff would only need to roll those out and swap a few items.

Large chains can computerize this, and the inventory could be real-time. That is undoubtedly what Amazon will do. Small trucks, more often.

Small local markets can reduce waste by working on relationships and good etiquette with the customers they know personally.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.