Quantitative sustainability assessment of household food waste management in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area

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Food waste represents the largest fraction of the municipal solid waste generated in Europe and its management is associated to suboptimal performance in environmental, health, and social dimensions. By processing detailed multi-fold local data as part of a comprehensive and broadly understandable sustainability framework, this study quantifies the environmental and socio-economic impacts of household food waste management in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area based on priorities set by local stakeholders. Five alternative short-term management options have been assessed against the current system, relying on poor separate collection and incineration. Four options involve separate collection of food waste followed by biological treatments (home/centralised composting and anaerobic digestion) while one involves a mix of separate collection and centralised mechanical-biological treatment followed by anaerobic digestion. Among these, separate collection followed by anaerobic digestion coupled with effective nutrient and energy recovery is, according to our findings, the preferred option to improve the sustainability of the current system in all dimensions considered, except for the economic pillar due to the collection costs. Home and centralised composting as well as mechanical-biological treatment are associated to more adverse impacts based on our findings. The study informs local stakeholders and authorities on the potential consequences of their options, thereby allowing them to make sound choices for a future waste and circular economy strategy.