Retail food waste: mapping causes and reduction practices

de Moraes, Camila Colombo; de Oliveira Costa, Flávio Henrique; Pereira, Carla Roberta; da Silva, Andrea Lago and Delai, Ivete (2020). Retail food waste: mapping causes and reduction practices. Journal of Cleaner Production, 256, article no. 120124.



Food waste is a very pressing sustainability issue due to the social and environmental impacts it generates, as pointed out by the 2030 United Nations Agenda. It has also been extensively discussed in the literature and by experts on the subject. However, these bodies of literature are still fragmented and concentrate on some specific issues such as waste quantification and causes of waste. Moreover, very few studies have discussed waste reduction practices. The latter addresses mainly techniques and procedures for food waste use, recovery, and destination or specific changes either to companies’ or consumers’ practices. No systematic review was found that maps the causes of food waste and practices for reduction, standardizes their terminologies, identifies their relationships, and portrays them in a broader supply chain context, as this article aims to do. We carried out a systematic literature review to answer two questions: RQ1) What are the main causes of food waste? RQ2) What current practices are there to reduce or prevent food waste? A content analysis was applied to 54 selected papers, and the causes and practices to reduce waste were identified and standardized. These causes and practices were classified into Ishikawa Diagram groups and correlated with each other using Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) Miner software and a co-occurrence coefficient. As a result, we found 34 causes of food waste and 32 reduction practices in the retail sector. The major part of these causes relates to problems with operational procedures, metrics, and materials, while the most popular practices deal with operational procedures, machines, and materials. These causes (and practices) are generated (or affected) by six groups of internal and external stakeholders (governments and regulators, competitors and industry entities, environment, consumers, NGOs and shareholders). This fact increases the complexity of the solution of related issues. Food waste is still a recent, incipient, growing, and very complex subject that requires thorough and systemic understanding to be addressed. Different agents in supply chains may be involved in order to implement the practices following a systemic view. Based on the correlation analysis between causes and practices we present a value chain systemic diagram describing the relationship between them. We also present the process where causes and practices happen and the stakeholders that affect them. Limitations and future avenues for research in the field are also presented.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions