Who should waste less? Food waste prevention and rebound effects in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals
Agriculture and food
The issue of food waste prevention plays a role in global and national policies. Such prevention can reap economic and, in particular, environmental benefits. As our study shows, these environmental benefits are often lost due to indirect rebound effects. Income differences play a crucial role here. Addressing food waste prevention is one target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a major task for the UN Environmental Programme and the European Commission. It is promising in terms of its environmental saving potential. However, it also leads to consumers being able to save money, which they then are likely to spend, thus again causing a negative environmental impact. This dimension of the so-called indirect rebound effect, which prevents the desired ecological benefits from being achieved, is investigated in this paper. By using a single-region environmentally extended input-output model from a production perspective, the indirect rebound effects from food waste prevention in Germany are analysed. Any political action needs to consider not only a differentiation in income class, but also alternative concepts such as the principles of sufficiency in order to achieve all ecological benefits and specifically the third target of SDG 12.