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Open Access Who should waste less? Food waste prevention and rebound effects in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

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.
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Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals; food waste prevention; rebound effect; sufficiency; sustainable consumption; target SDG 12.3

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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