NIS 3.2 billion
Environmental Impact and Costs of Food Waste/Loss
The environmental cost of food waste in Israel in 2019 is estimated at approximately NIS 3.2 billion, including NIS 1.4 billion for unnecessary use of natural resources, NIS 1 billion for GHG and air pollutant emissions, and NIS 800 million in direct costs for waste collection and processing. Food waste (including packaging) in all segments, except for agriculture, produces 1.9 million tons of municipal waste, which constitutes approximately 35% of all municipal waste in Israel.
Despite the negative environmental impacts of growing and producing food, agriculture is not perceived as a source of pollution, and environmental taxes and fees are generally not imposed on agriculture because the positive external impact of food consumption is higher than its negative external impact. Many developed countries even subsidize production and consumption either directly or indirectly.
However, when food is wasted – produced but not consumed – the full environmental impact remains, from its cultivation and production as well as its disposal and treatment as waste; all this without anyone deriving positive benefit from its consumption. Therefore, a net damage to the environment is attributable to food waste.
This report is the first to examine the environmental impact of food waste and loss in Israel. It focuses on the environmental impact of GHG and air pollutant emissions in Israel in 2019, along the entire length of the value chain for food production, consumption and disposal. It encompasses the waste of natural resources (water and land) as a result of this loss, as well as the impact caused by the need to treat it as waste. The external costs of GHG and air pollutant emissions were quantified using the methodology of United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (10). The external environmental impacts on land and water quality as well as damage to biodiversity were not examined at this stage. Therefore, the estimated environmental cost of food loss and waste in Israel presented in this chapter is underestimated, and only provides the foundation for a more comprehensive assessment of the environmental cost of food waste and loss in coming years.
of GHG emissions in Israel result from food waste
NIS 3.2 Billion
The environmental cost of food waste in Israel:
Environmental Costs of Food Waste
2019, By Cost Driver, in NIS billions
Water expended and lost as a result of food waste would fill:
56,000 Olympic swimming pools
In an arid country like Israel, water is a valuable, limited resource. The 180 million cubic meters of fresh water that were irreplaceably expended and lost as a result of food waste would fill 56,000 Olympic swimming pools, or provide enough water for every resident of the country to shower every day for an entire year, or approximately 4 billion showers. In terms of costs, the water lost together with discarded food is worth approximately NIS 650 million to the Israeli economy.
Land is another limited, valuable resource in Israel. The one million dunams of agricultural land used to grow food that was discarded represents a value of approximately NIS 0.8 billion.
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 the accompanying waste of natural resources and polluting emissions; it also includes treatment after disposal. Treating food waste after it is discarded, and transferring it to landfills results in additional environmental impacts. It is known that 34% of the composition of household waste in Israel consists of organic matter originating in food (12). Therefore, discarded food increases the total amount of waste to be treated and, absent waste separation, impedes the ability to recycle other materials found in household waste.
Most of the waste discarded in Israel is transferred to landfills, which has many negative environmental impacts. Landfills require large land areas, thereby contributing to the depletion of land resources in Israel. Moreover, a variety of air pollutants are emitted when transporting waste to landfill sites far from the center of the country. Not only do landfills emit GHG, they also have the potential to contaminate adjacent land and water resources, when environmentally-harmful substances percolate into water and soil layers (13).
The amount of municipal waste produced in Israel each year is estimated at approximately 5.6 million tons (14), while the quantity of food waste was approximately 2.5 million tons in 2019. Of this, approximately 1.7 million tons of food waste (15) requires end facility treatment. To this, add approximately 200,000 tons of waste from food packaging for a total of 1.9 million tons of food and packaging waste, approximately one-third of the waste in Israel that requires treatment. In order to treat such a quantity of waste, approximately 190,000 compacting garbage trucks (16) would be required for collection and removal, equivalent to 520 trucks filled with waste, every day for an entire year.
This quantity of waste requiring treatment necessitates the allocation of significant resources, including economic and statutory support for sorting and end solutions. The cost of waste treatment consists 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 treatment itself, depending on the type of treatment, and landfill fees. The direct annual cost for treating food waste and associated packaging in Israel (17) is NIS 0.8 billion. This is compounded by the external costs of GHG and air pollutant emissions from waste treatment, estimated at NIS 0.4 billion. The total direct external economic cost for treating waste originating from food loss in Israel in 2019 was approximately NIS 1.2 billion.
of the environmental impact resulting from food loss is caused by consumer waste
The environmental impact relating to agricultural produce is quantified for the product’s entire lifecycle, including cultivation, 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 along the value chain when discarded; the impact of concluding its lifecycle as waste; and the impact of previous stages (if any).
Food wasted at the consumption stage is responsible for approximately 55% of the environmental impact/cost of food waste. Consumer food waste includes all of the cumulative environmental impact from its cultivation, transport, processing and distribution prior to reaching the consumer. In 2019, food worth NIS 12 billion, and weighing 1.2 million tons (including packaging), was discarded during the consumption stage (18). In addition to the cost of the food waste itself, there is the unnecessary economic cost of waste treatment, totaling approximately NIS 0.6 billion. Consumers pay this price indirectly, through municipal fees, in addition to GHG and air pollutant emissions with an impact and cost of approximately NIS 0.5 billion.
Examining the environmental impact of food waste by stage at which the impact was created shows that origin of more than 60% of the impact is attributable to to the agricultural stage, because the costs associated with food discarded at later stages – processing, distribution and consumption – also includes costs from prior stages.
Environmental Costs of Israel’s Food Waste in 2019
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
Environmental Cost of 1 kg of Wasted Food during the Consumption Stage, in Israel 2019 (NIS)
International comparison – GHG emissions from food waste
According to FAO assessments, the amount of food wasted globally is approximately 2.5 billion tons per year and the total amount of GHG emitted as a result of unconsumed food at all stages of cultivation and production is approximately 3.3 billion tons, in addition to the emissions created when the food is discarded and treated as waste (19).
The FAO estimates that the global cost of GHG emissions (GHGs) from food waste is approximately $394 billion per year. This cost is dependent on both local conditions and the specific type of agricultural product.
The international comparison presented in the FAO study and the graph below show that when food waste occurs at early stages in the value chain – agriculture, processing and packaging – the level of GHG emissions per capita from the cultivation and production of unconsumed food is similar in all regions (100-200 kg GHGs per capita). Conversely, there are significant differences between regions in emissions per capita at later stages in the value chain, processing, distribution and consumption (100-700 kg GHGs per capita).
It is clear that the gap in GHG emissions between moderate- and high-income regions, such as Europe and North America, and low-income regions, such as Africa and Southeast Asia, results from differences in the amount of food wasted at each stage in the value chain, different dietary habits (the consumption of animal-based food yields a higher rate of GHG emissions), and different agricultural cultivation methods (industrial agriculture emits more GHG).
In Israel, 5 million tons of GHG are emitted as a result of cultivating and producing unconsumed food, which represents approximately 6% of the GHG emissions each year. Most food wasted in Israel occurs during the consumption stage. Animal-based food products are on the menu of most households in Israel and the industrial agricultural methods are prevalent. As a result, the GHG emissions per capita are higher than the global average, and are on a scale similar to Europe.