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A multi-criteria sustainability assessment framework: development and application in comparing two food waste management options using a UK region as a case study

Iacovidou, Eleni, Voulvoulis, Nikolaos
Environmental science and pollution research international 2018 v.25 no.36 pp. 35821-35834
anaerobic digestion, business enterprises, case studies, food waste, issues and policy, multi-criteria decision making, planning, resource management, screening, sewage sludge, stakeholders, waste disposal, United Kingdom
Preventing food wastage is a key element of sustainable resource management. But as food waste is still generated at high volumes, priority is placed on its proper management as a resource, maximising sustainability benefits. This study, by integrating a multi-criteria decision analysis with a sustainability assessment approach, develops a screening and decision support framework for comparing the sustainability performance of food waste management options. A structured process for selecting criteria based on the consideration of environmental, economic and social aspects related to region-specific food waste system planning, policy and management has been developed. Two food waste management options, namely the use of food waste disposal units, which grind food waste at the household’s kitchen sink and discharge it to the sewer, and the anaerobic co-digestion of separately collected food waste with sewage sludge, were selected for comparison due to their potential to create synergies between local authorities, waste and water companies, with local circumstances determining which of the two options to adopt. A simplified process used for assessing and comparing the two food waste management options in the Anglian region in the UK, indicated that there are benefits in using the framework as a screening tool for identifying which option may be the most sustainable. To support decision-making, a detailed analysis that incorporates stakeholders’ perspectives is required. An additional use of the framework can be in providing recommendations for optimising food waste management options in a specific region, maximising their sustainability performance.