A new report by ReLondon and Circle Economy reveals that greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production, transportation, consumption and disposal of London’s food are 15,483 kilotons CO2 equivalent each year – and highlights the real opportunities to cut these damaging emissions by accelerating more sustainable food practices.
The research, ‘London’s food footprint: an analysis of material flows, consumption-based emissions, and levers for climate action’, suggests that 6.3 million tonnes of food is produced to supply London’s total food system each year – 2.3 million tonnes of which is lost or wasted.
836,000 tonnes of imported food is lost or thrown away before it even reaches London, representing over a third of all food waste and loss from London’s food system, according to the report.
A further 525,000 tonnes is then wasted by farmers, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and food service businesses within London; and finally almost a million tonnes is wasted by London households – the largest share of the food wasted across London’s food system.
The report identifies waste and carbon ‘hot spots’ across London’s food supply chain and outlines ‘urgent opportunities’ to significantly cut carbon emissions. The analysis suggests that by reducing food loss and making ‘better use’ of food waste, as well as shifting towards ‘healthier and more sustainable diets’, food-related consumption-based emissions could be reduced by up to 31% a year.
If we are to make the carbon reductions needed to avert climate catastrophe, adopting more circular approaches to food is essential.
Almost all (99%) of London’s food and beverages are imported from outside of the city, with local production and farming accounting for just 1% of the capital’s food supply. This means that most of the consumption-based emissions associated with London’s food supply chain (78%) occur outside the city itself.
Consumption-based emissions refer to the greenhouse gas emissions that happen over the whole lifecycle of products and services, as well as those associated with waste management.
ReLondon and the Mayor of London are today (4 November) announcing a number of commitments in response to the report, including the development of an action plan to reduce the capital’s food-related consumption-based emissions.
The plan will include, among other actions, the following two measures:
- convene a food supply chain roundtable with representatives from across the food sector to tackle food loss and waste at every stage in the chain.
- London boroughs will reduce the environmental impact of the food served by council services; and the Mayor of London will use the purchasing power of the GLA to tackle consumption-based emissions in the food supplied across the wider GLA group, working with suppliers and catering contractors to achieve this.
Wayne Hubbard, CEO at ReLondon, said: “If we are to make the carbon reductions needed to avert climate catastrophe, adopting more circular approaches to food is essential. London is already home to a wide range of innovative sustainable practices in the food sector – but now we urgently need to scale and grow those models across the capital and beyond.
“This report reveals the amount huge amount of food loss and waste that occurs before food even reaches London. That is why I am delighted that the Mayor is convening organisations across the supply chain to take action; and that we’ll be collaborating on a London action plan to engage industry leaders, boroughs and civil society in accelerating a low carbon future for food.”
ReLondon and Circle Economy will launch the research today at an event convening experts and policy leaders to help cities minimise the carbon footprint of food. ReLondon will also unveil three ‘pioneer projects’ as part of the Food Flagship Initiative:
- Toast Ale – the waste-busting beer company will scale the use of surplus bread in the brewing industry by creating a pre-prepared brewers’ ingredient (crumb) that other brewers can buy ready to use.
- Felix’s Kitchen – this brand-new venture from The Felix Project will involve preparing meals made from surplus food in a professional kitchen. Felix’s Kitchen will have the capacity to prepare 1.5m meals every year.
- Household food waste minimisation pilot – this ReLondon-funded project will measure the impact of targeted local promotion of food waste apps Olio & Kitche, and show whether these can reduce waste at a local level – which in turn would reduce emissions and save councils money.
Taking action on climate change should be front and centre in the minds of policymakers and business leaders alike—and we know that the circular economy must be on the table to fulfil climate goals
Jordi Pascual Torner at Circle Economy, said: “Taking action on climate change should be front and centre in the minds of policymakers and business leaders alike—and we know that the circular economy must be on the table to fulfil climate goals.
“Our work with ReLondon has paved the way for London to slash consumption-based emissions for food through circular strategies. The tool we’ve developed can also support other cities in their efforts to fight climate change —and we hope London will be the first of many in stepping up to the plate and making good on its climate commitments.”