As urbanization increases, meeting the challenges of urban food supply and food security requires coherent and holistic strategies. Attention too often focuses solely on best practices without addressing the required behavior change.

While there is increasing global commitment to the concept of economic circularity, in the context of food, a circular bioeconomy should be promoted in conjunction with strategies for food waste avoidance and minimization. Instead of emphasizing only technical solutions for greater circularity, priority should be given to advances in planning, institutional capacities and policies to create incentives for waste minimization, which often implies positive or negative incentives for behavioral change.

In support of the framework of the food waste [minimization] hierarchy, this policy brief proposes the integration of both the circularity of food systems and behavioral insights into the food waste dialogue, with special recognition of the waste absorption potential of urban and peri-urban farming systems at a city-regional scale.

With global food production unlikely to keep pace with future urban food demand, it is imperative to minimize food wastage. As a co-benefit, this will also alleviate problems for overstretched urban waste services. Both support achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 11 and 12 without the need for major capital investment.

This policy brief proposes application of circular bioeconomic and behavioral insights to reduce food loss and waste in urban food systems. A circular bioeconomy approach could generate benefits worth US$ 2.7 trillion a year in 2050, including saving 15 million hectares of arable land from degradation, and a significant output of greenhouse gas emissions (Commission on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification, 2022). It is critical to shift food system management and consumption patterns towards more circular, resilient, and sustainable pathways with viable financial models based on public-private partnerships across food systems.