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Avoiding food waste as a non-technical strategy to implement the bioeconomy

Avoiding food waste as a non-technical strategy to implement the bioeconomy
Project team:

Priefer, Carmen (Dissertation)

Start date:

2014

End date:

2018

Research area:

Sustainability and environment

Project description

The concept of bioeconomy is based on the vision of an economy that is built on the preferred use of biogenic resources to become less dependent on fossil sources. At the same time, the bioeconomy is expected to contribute significantly to a sustainable development and the solution of global challenges such as resource scarcity, food security, and climate change. However, the discourse is dominated by different ideas to implement a bio-based economy. Official bioeconomy strategies rely on a technology-based implementation pathway, aiming at a decoupling of biomass production and environmental consumption with the help of technical innovations. A wide range of technical solutions are important, with a focus on biotechnology. Science and civil society representatives who express doubts about this approach argue that increasing efficiency and developing new, environmentally friendly conversion processes will not be enough to avoid potentially negative consequences of an increasing biomass utilization. Therefore, they assume that non-technical approaches like changing production and consumption patterns are essential prerequisites for realizing the bioeconomy.

One of these non-technical approaches is the prevention of food waste. Food waste occurs along the whole food chain because of many different reasons. The reduction of food waste is seen as a key lever for ensuring global food security, freeing-up limited resources, and reducing environmental burdens. This topic has already been studied at the European and international level for many years. In addition, there are plenty of political and civil society initiatives to fight against food wastage. By implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the EU has committed itself to halving food waste by 2030. However, food waste also represents a resource base in the context of bioeconomy and can be used in manifold ways (e.g., for biogas or compost production). In consequence, there is a conflict of goals between waste prevention and recovery, which raises the question of which option can make a better contribution to a bio-based economy.

Using the example of food waste, the dissertation project examines the importance of non-technical approaches for the realization of the bioeconomy. It is based on various analyses that deal with the relevance and avoidability of food waste, land use effects, and the potential contribution to bioeconomy. Regarding resource efficiency, the central thesis of this work is that avoiding food waste is the more meaningful option compared to recycling and thus, should be embedded more strongly into the concept of bioeconomy as an example for a non-technical approach that can advance the transition.

Administrative data

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Oliver Frör, Institut für Umweltwissenschaften, Arbeitsgruppe für Umweltökonomie, Universität Koblenz-Landau
Advisor: Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald, Institut für Philosophie, KIT
Related projects:
Doctoral students at ITAS: See Doctoral studies at ITAS

Contact

Dr. Carmen Priefer
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe
Germany