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Circular Economy Strategies for a Resource Efficient Food System: Footprints of German Food Consumption
Food waste reduction is a priority area in the EU circular economy (CE) action plan (2015). The action plan aims to prevent increased resource scarcity and help avoid environmental damages induced by resource extraction and disposal. In parallel, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address food waste and loss (FWL) with the goal of halving food waste in retail and consumption, and decreasing the losses along the supply chain (SDG 12.3). Food systems, however, are vital to meet several SDGs, including the goals related to hunger (SDG 2), water (SDG 6), climate (SDG 13) and land use (SDG 15). Given the growing public health burden and the increasing environmental degradation induced by food systems, resource efficiency must increase to meet both the objectives of the CE action plan and the interrelated SDGs. Proposed strategies to increase resource efficiency of food systems include not only reducing FWL, but also increasing agricultural productivity and shifting toward more plant-based diets. Among these, dietary changes have shown significant potential to decrease resource intensity and are increasingly addressed as an important part of sustainable food systems. Yet, dietary changes have not gotten any broader political promotion. In support of the SDGs and the CE action plan, Germany adopted a new national strategy to reduce FWL, ensuring the continuous research on FWL. However, studies on environmental benefits of dietary changes or other resource efficiency measures are lagging behind, in particular at country level. To address this, we will investigate land footprint of German food consumption under different scenarios of dietary changes and reduced FWL, and thus, assess the potential changes in footprint. Dietary changes imply a more healthy and plant-based diet. Therefore, we will 1) assess the current land footprint of German food consumption, 2) assess how changes in product demand, reflecting a more healthy diet, change the footprints of German food consumption, and 3) assess the theoretical potential of FWL reduction to decrease the food consumption footprint. The results will provide an assessment of footprints resulting from changes in German consumer behaviour in relation to food waste generation and product choices, as well as interactions between the two. Based on this, we aim to give recommendations for a more resource-efficient and circular food system to policy-makers and industry. Its findings could help industry and policy-makers prioritize among measures to decrease the net land footprint of the food system.