The concept of Zero Waste

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Numerous institutions, municipalities, and governances have set ambitious Zero Waste (ZW) goals with many specifically targeting food waste (FW). Grounded in ecological theory, ZW means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them; eliminating all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal, or plant health; and calls upon humans to emulate natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Perishable organic materials, such as food, present unique considerations and challenges for ZW thinking, which was originally conceived for the management of chemicals and other materials that can be stored for long periods of time without changing form. The majority of environmental and human health impacts attributable to FW, are incurred during agricultural production and food processing, thus it is important to consider the entire food supply chain when targeting the ambitious goals of ZW. This chapter provides an introduction to the concepts of ZW and life cycle assessment; an overview of the challenges presented by the United States agricultural system as it is today; and, a discussion on the FW management options included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. In general, a growing body of research on the environmental impacts of FW management agrees with the Food Recovery Hierarchy order of Source Reduction as the primary objective, followed by Feeding Humans then Animals, followed by Industrial Uses such as Anaerobic Digestion, then Composting, and finally, Landfilling. In nearly all cases there are many challenges associated with facilitating individual and institutional behavior and culture to pursue ZW in the food sector.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSaving Food
Subtitle of host publicationProduction, Supply Chain, Food Waste and Food Consumption
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780128153574
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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