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Title: The environmental impacts of distributing consumer goods : a case study on dessert apples
Author: Jones, Andrew
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1999
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The contemporary Food Supply Chain (FSC) provides consumers with convenience, extensive choice, and year-round availability of fresh produce. In this dissertation these achievements are recognised within the context of the associated external environmental, social and economic impacts. These benefits have been achieved through the modernisation of agriculture, the provision of road transport infrastructure, a concentration in the retail sector, and a commitment to international free trade. These are changes that have all occurred in the last 50 years and have resulted in the spatial expansion of the food system. The global sourcing of food produce, centralised distribution systems and shopping by car have all contributed to an increase in the distance between producer and consumer or ‘food miles’. Many of these transport stages are by road and ship, which are modes of transport which result in significant ‘external’ social and environmental costs. The influences on the transport intensity of the sourcing and marketing systems for fresh food products are discussed, including trade, agricultural, planning and transport policies, as well as the sourcing and locational policies of multiple retailers. In choosing a fresh product (apples) which is available throughout the year in Britain, it is possible to compare the environmental impacts of the transport systems of globally sourced, British and locally grown products. A life cycle analysis based technique - means/end analysis -is applied to determine the environmental impacts associated with all possible ways in which apples can be sourced, distributed and marketed. In this way the systems which most closely approach the criteria for sustainable development are determined as a first step towards developing a sustainable food system. The main criteria used to indicate environmental sustainability are the energy and material (or thermodynamic) throughput in the life cycle of a product; in environmentally sustainable systems this throughput is minimised. Analysis of the empirical data shows that transportation is now responsible for a considerable fraction of the total energy consumption and pollution in the life cycle of fresh food products, and in most cases exceeds the energy required to cultivate fresh fruit and vegetables. The transport-related environmental impacts associated with fresh produce were found to increase as the distance between producer and consumer increases; and the hypothesis that minimising the distance involved in distributing fresh food products also minimises the life cycle environmental impact was confirmed. Also, by developing local production and marketing systems for fresh produce the transport demand associated with fresh fruit and vegetable sourcing, distribution and shopping can be reduced, and many of the external environmental impacts associated with existing sourcing and distribution systems can be avoided.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Food supply chain