NIS 3.42 billion
The Environmental Impact and Cost of Food Waste and Loss
The restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis and the change in consumer behavior led to a decrease in total food waste, which reduced the environmental impact caused by food waste by about NIS 100 million. Most of the decrease occurred in the retail and consumption sectors, where waste volume decreased in the retail sector due to the transition from open market shopping to supermarket chain and online shopping, and decreased in the consumption sector due to the shift from institutional consumption to household consumption. On the other hand, there was an increase in environmental costs per ton of air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions (35) of about NIS 300 million, leading to an overall increase of about NIS 200 million in environmental costs.
In addition, households made fewer shopping trips, as these were replaced by food delivery services, which slightly lowered the overall mileage and the consequent emissions. At the same time, the institutional market changed the way food it served food, switching from buffet service to pre-packaged food that consumers pick up and consume elsewhere, which led to an increase in the amount of packaging material. However, these changes have relatively little impact in relation to the overall environmental cost.
The food production process requires various resources, including land, water, fertilizers, chemicals, and energy. It accounts for approximately one fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide 36. Many of these resources are nonrenewable 37, and their use runs the risk of adversely affecting water, land, and air quality, as well as global biodiversity.
NIS 3.2 Billion The Environmental Cost of Food Waste in Israel
It is important to note that the environmental impacts quantified and presented in this chapter include only those that occurred within the geographical boundaries of the State of Israel. Natural resources invested in growing food outside of Israel and the emissions from the growing and production processes were not included in this report. A relatively large part of certain foods that are consumed in Israel, such as grains and meat products, are imported. Therefore, the environmental impact of food consumed and discarded in Israel is greater than the total environmental impact quantified in this chapter.
Environmental Costs of Food Waste 2019, By Cost Driver, in NIS billions
of GHG emissions in Israel result from food waste
The environmental impact of food production at all stages (production, processing, sales, consumption, and disposal) results from the use of energy and resources, and these vary according to the crop type. These costs are added to the economic and environmental cost of treating the food and packaging waste.
Additional resources that were lost along with the food wasted in Israel in 2020 include 1,230 million kWh of electricity, a quantity sufficient to manufacture all the computers and electronic and electric devices in Israel in one year; 70 thousand tons of fuel, which is enough to fuel about 160 thousand cars for one year; 180 million cubic meters of freshwater – enough to fill 56 thousand Olympic swimming pools, as well as 210 million cubic meters of wastewater; and one million dunams of agricultural land – 20 times the area of Tel Aviv. In addition, 200 thousand tons of waste (packaging, industrial waste, etc.) were created, 50 thousand tons of fertilizer were used, and livestock emitted 3 thousand tons of ammonia over the course of the year.
Together, these contributed to 5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from food waste in Israel in 2020, constituting approximately 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the country. In Government Decision No. 171 dated July 25, 2021 on the topic of transitioning to a low-carbon economy (41), the Israeli government set an updated national goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 27% by 2030 and by 85% by 2050 compared to greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. To achieve these goals, in that same decision the Israeli government also set sectorial targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make energy consumption more efficient. These included “reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by solid waste by at least 47% by 2030 compared to emissions measured in 2015,” “reduce greenhouse gas emissions from municipal waste by at least 92% by 2050 compared to emissions measured in 2015, which stood at 5.5 million tons a year,” and “a 71% reduction in the volume of landfilled municipal waste by 2030 compared to the amount of municipal waste landfilled in 2018, which stood at 4.5 million tons a year.” Reducing the amount of food waste in Israel would assist the national effort to meet the targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of municipal waste landfilled.
Water expended and lost as a result of food waste would fill:
56,000 Olympic swimming pools
In an arid country such as Israel, water is a valuable and limited resource. The 180 million cubic meters of freshwater lost as a result of food waste could fill 56 thousand Olympic swimming pools, or alternatively, raise the water level in the Sea of Galilee by over 1 meter, or provide enough water for about 3.5 million residents for an entire year (42). An examination of the water costs wasted along with the food reveals that the lost water cost the Israeli economy approximately NIS 600 million.
Land is another limited and valuable resource in Israel. The one million dunams (1,000 square kilometers) of agricultural land used to grow wasted food is valued at approximately NIS 800 million.
Food waste constitutes approximately a third of the total household waste produced in Israel
The environmental impact of food waste stems not only from excess food production and consumption patterns that involve the wasting of natural resources and air pollution, but also from the way food is treated once it is discarded. Treating food waste once it is discarded and in particular, transferring it to landfills, cause additional environmental impacts. It’s known that 34% of household waste in Israel consists of organic matter originating in food (43). Thus, food waste increases the total amount of waste that needs to be treated, and when unsorted, makes it difficult to recycle other materials found in household waste.
Most of the waste in Israel is landfilled, and this has many negative environmental impacts. Landfills require large areas of land and thereby contribute to the depletion of land resources in Israel. In addition, a variety of air pollutants and greenhouse gases are emitted when waste is transported to distant landfill sites around the country. Moreover, landfills can potentially contaminate adjacent land and water resources due to environmentally harmful substances seeping through layers of water and soil (44).
The amount of municipal waste produced in Israel each year is estimated at approximately 5.6 million tons (45). Food waste in Israel in 2020 was estimated at around 2.5 million tons, out of which about 1.6 million tons (46) required end facility treatment (as part of the municipal waste treated in Israel). Added to this were approximately 200 thousand tons of waste from food packaging, leading to a total of 1.8 million tons of food and packaging waste, which constituted about a third of the waste in Israel and required treatment. Treating this amount of waste required approximately 180 thousand compacting garbage trucks (47), which is the equivalent of 495 loaded trucks operating every day for an entire year.
The volume of waste requiring treatment necessitates the allocation of significant resources, including economic and statutory support for sorting and end solutions. Waste treatment costs consist of several factors, including the costs associated with waste storage, collection, and removal, sorting and transit facilities, and transportation, as well as the cost of the treatment itself, depending on the type of treatment required and landfilling fees. The direct annual cost for treating food waste and associated packaging (48) in Israel stands at NIS 800 million (based on waste treatment cost estimates conducted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Waste Policy 2030). In addition, the external costs of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions caused by treating the waste stands at NIS 500 million. The total direct external economic cost for treating waste resulting from food loss in Israel in 2020 stands at approximately NIS 1.3 billion.
of the environmental impact resulting from food loss is caused by consumer waste
The environmental impact related to agricultural produce is quantified in regard to the product’s entire lifecycle, including production, post-harvest handling, storage, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal. The further along a product is in its lifecycle when it is wasted or discarded, the greater its environmental impact. This is because the environmental footprint of food waste stems from three different components: impacts resulting from the stage of the value chain when the product is discarded; impacts stemming from the product ending up as waste; and impacts stemming from previous stages of the value chain (if there are any).
Food wasted at the consumption stage accounts for approximately 50% of the environmental cost of food waste. Consumer food waste includes all the cumulative environmental impact resulting from its production, transport, processing, and distribution prior to reaching the consumer. In 2020, food worth NIS 10.5 billion and weighing 1.2 million tons (including packaging) was discarded during the consumption stage 49. In addition to the cost of the food waste itself, there was the unnecessary cost of waste treatment, which consumers paid indirectly through municipal fees totaling at around NIS 500 million, and environmental damage of around NIS 700 million was caused due to greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions.
In 2020, following the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdowns that ensued, households’ shopping trip mileage decreased. At the same time, the amount of food delivered to homes increased. The assumption is that food delivery travel routes make fuel use more efficient in the consumption sector, and accordingly, less fuel was consumed by households in 2020, thereby reducing the pollution resulting from shopping trips in this sector.
At the same time, during the lockdown months, there was an increase in the volume of food packaging due to food deliveries from retail chains and restaurants.
An examination of the environmental impact of food waste according to the stage at which the waste was created reveals that around 60% of the impact is attributable to the agricultural stage. This is because the costs associated with food discarded at later stages – processing, distribution and consumption – include costs resulting from the impacts of prior stages.
Environmental Costs of Israel’s Food Waste in 2020 By Stage of Food Loss, in NIS millions
Environmental Cost of Food Waste by Stage of Loss
Animal-based food products have the greatest negative environmental impact
Cumulative Environmental Cost per Kilogram of Wasted Food in Israel in 2020, in NIS
International comparison: GHG emissions caused by food waste
According to FAO assessments, the amount of food wasted globally is approximately 2.5 billion tons per year. The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of growing and producing unconsumed food was estimated by the FAO at approximately 3.3 billion tons. This amount includes greenhouse gas emissions from every stage of the food growing and production stages, as well as the emissions caused by food being discarded and treated as waste (51).
The FAO estimates the global cost of greenhouse gas emissions from food waste at approximately $394 billion a year (52). This cost depends on local conditions and varies according to the specific type of agricultural product.
The international comparison presented in the FAO study and the graph below show that the level of greenhouse gas emissions per capita resulting from growing and producing unconsumed food is relatively similar in various regions around the world (100-200 kg of greenhouse gases per capita) when food waste occurs at the early stages of the value chain, i.e., during the agricultural, processing, and packaging stages. On the other hand, there are significant differences between various regions in emissions per capita at the later stages of the value chain – i.e. processing, distribution and consumption (100-700 kg of greenhouse gases per capita).
Apparently, the gaps in greenhouse gas emissions between moderate and high-income regions such as Europe and North America, and low-income regions such as Africa and South East Asia, stem from differences in the amount of food wasted at each stage in the value chain, different dietary habits (the consumption of animal products leads to more greenhouse gas emissions), and different agricultural cultivation methods (industrial agriculture emits more greenhouse gases).
In Israel, 5 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted as a result of growing and producing unconsumed food, constituting approximately 6% of greenhouse gas emission in the country each year. Most of the food waste occurs during the consumption stage. Animal products are part of the diet of most households and the agricultural methods are industrialized. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions per capita are higher than the global average and are on par with the European average.