Hospital food waste and environmental and economic indicators - A Portuguese case study


This study presents a comprehensive characterization of plate waste (food served but not eaten) at an acute care hospital in Portugal and elaborates on possible waste reduction measures. Even though waste prevention is a priority in Europe, large amounts of food are still being wasted every day, with hospitals giving rise to two to three times more food waste than other foodservice sectors. For this work the plate waste arising at the ward level was audited during 8 weeks, covering almost 8000 meals, using a general hospital as case study. Weighing the food served to patients and that returned after the meal allowed calculating plate waste for the average meal, as well as for individual meal items. Comparison of food waste arising showed that differences exist among wards, with some generating more waste than others. On average each patient throws away 953 g of food each day, representing 35% of the food served. This equates to 8.7 thousand tonnes of food waste being thrown away each year at hospitals across Portugal. These tonnes of food transformed into waste represent economic losses and environmental impacts, being estimated that 16.4 thousand tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) and 35.3 million euros are the annual national indicators in Portugal. This means that 0.5% of the Portuguese National Health budget gets thrown away as food waste. Given the magnitude of the food problem five measures were suggested to reduce food waste, and their potential impact and ease of implementation were discussed. Even though food waste is unavoidable the results obtained in this work highlight the potential financial and environmental savings for Portuguese hospitals, providing a basis to establish future strategies to tackle food waste. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



subject category

Engineering; Environmental Sciences & Ecology


Dias-Ferreira, C; Santos, T; Oliveira, V

our authors



C. Dias-Ferreira gratefully acknowledges the FCT - Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia for the financial support (SFRH/BPD/100717/2014). M. Domingas is acknowledged for advising on the statistical analysis. The authors would like to acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for their suggestions.

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