When food is unable to stay within the human food chain and be redirected to feed people, the preferred option will depend on a case by case evaluation. A first consideration should be whether it can be redirected to feed livestock, subject to safety, quality and legislative requirements being met. Otherwise, consideration should be given to using it as a raw material for other industries (e.g. detergents, inks, cosmetics, plastics and pharmaceuticals) or recovery (e.g. transformed into fertilizer or compost or used for renewable energy production). Only as a last resort should it be incinerated without energy recovery or sent to landfill.
The following image depicts this hierarchy, and is based on existing food waste hierarchies.
Click on the layers of this hierarchy to view our guidance and best practices for food manufacturers.
Individual cases may deviate from this hierarchy, in accordance with Article 4 of the EU Waste Framework Directive, which states that “specific waste streams [may depart] from the hierarchy where this is justified by life-cycle thinking on the overall impacts of the generation and management of such waste”. Environmental and social benefits of different management options depend significantly on local conditions, such as population density and proximity to other industries and farms. Food waste management should also be in accordance with Article 13 of the Waste Framework Directive on Protection of human health and the environment.
The better food safety and quality are preserved, the more likely it is that food wastage can be prevented, used or re-used. So protecting food from damage and spoilage along the chain is paramount.
This toolkit proceeds in descending order of the food wastage hierarchy, and focuses on the most preferable solutions.
 Wageningen University’s Ladder of Moerman, Food Waste Pyramid for London, OVAM (Public Waste Agency of Flanders)’s food waste hierarchy, FEVIA (Fédération de l’Industrie Alimentaire/Federatie Voedingsindustrie)’s food waste hierarchy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s food waste hierarchy.