Balancing people, planet, and profit in urban food waste management

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Food waste is a complex problem and critical challenge for the sustainable development of circular economies, with interconnected social, environmental, and economic impacts. Supporting the identification of strategies that best minimise these impacts on people, planet and profit, this paper explores the dynamic impacts of food waste management options on the triple bottom lines of sustainable development in urban circular economies. We present a system dynamics model of the urban agri-food supply chain. This model simulates the fluxes of food and food waste throughout the supply chain, as well as their impacts on economy (i.e., costs and benefits for each sector and the broader economy), society (i.e., food insecurity) and environment (i.e., water, energy, and carbon footprints). Using Bristol city in the United Kingdom as a case-study, we evaluate the impacts of seven food waste management options (i.e., reduction, redistribution, animal feed, anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration, and landfilling). The results show that food waste reduction in consumer sectors (i.e., households and hospitality and food services) and redistribution in supply sectors (i.e., primary production and manufacture) offer the greatest benefits for the environment, society, and economy. For the retail sector, both reduction and redistribution options are highly favourable. Although these options can potentially have some adverse economic effects on the supply side due to a reduction in demand, their considerably high benefits make them high-reward, low-risk options. We thus conclude that food waste reduction and redistribution are the only options with a clear triple-win for people, planet and profit. This paper makes a significant contribution by introducing a robust quantitative model and a novel triple bottom line framework for sustainable food waste management in urban circular economies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Early online date8 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

©2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Institution of Chemical Engineers. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


This work is part of the Waste FEW-ULL project (, which was funded by the Belmont Forum (UK ESRC grant ES/S002243/1). AP gratefully acknowledges a doctoral bursary from Coventry University.


  • Triple bottom lines of sustainable development
  • Food waste management
  • Environmental, social and economic sustainability
  • Circular economy
  • System dynamics modelling
  • Urban policy and governance


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