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Environmental and health impacts of using food waste as animal feed: a comparative analysis of food waste management options.

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Salemdeeb, Ramy 
Zu Ermgassen, Erasmus KHJ 
Kim, Mi Hyung 
Al-Tabbaa, Abir 


The disposal of food waste is a large environmental problem. In the United Kingdom (UK), approximately 15 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, mostly disposed of in landfill, via composting, or anaerobic digestion (AD). European Union (EU) guidelines state that food waste should preferentially be used as animal feed though for most food waste this practice is currently illegal, because of disease control concerns. Interest in the potential diversion of food waste for animal feed is however growing, with a number of East Asian states offering working examples of safe food waste recycling - based on tight regulation and rendering food waste safe through heat treatment. This study investigates the potential benefits of diverting food waste for pig feed in the UK. A hybrid, consequential life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted to compare the environmental and health impacts of four technologies for food waste processing: two technologies of South Korean style-animal feed production (as a wet pig feed and a dry pig feed) were compared with two widespread UK disposal technologies: AD and composting. Results of 14 mid-point impact categories show that the processing of food waste as a wet pig feed and a dry pig feed have the best and second-best scores, respectively, for 13/14 and 12/14 environmental and health impacts. The low impact of food waste feed stems in large part from its substitution of conventional feed, the production of which has substantial environmental and health impacts. While the re-legalisation of the use of food waste as pig feed could offer environmental and public health benefits, this will require support from policy makers, the public, and the pig industry, as well as investment in separated food waste collection which currently occurs in only a minority of regions.



Anaerobic digestion, Animal feed, Composting, Food waste, Hybrid life-cycle assessment, Swill

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J Clean Prod

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Elsevier BV
BBSRC (1344055)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/J014540/1)
E.K.H.J.zE was funded by BBSRC grant BB/J014540/1. R.S. was funded by the Islamic Development Bank and Cambridge Overseas Trust.