It is no surprise that we have a food waste problem. A WRAP study reveals the UK wastes 9.5 million tonnes of food every year. This has a value of £19 billion and is associated with 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Sure, we produce and consume food, but the fact we discard it and then set out to produce more food has consequences that seep far beyond businesses, households, and landfill sites. This has started to affect our way of life and the planet.
Though the UN aims to halve per capita global food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030, an increasing number of establishments are stepping up their actions and contributing to this cause. That is where the concept of the circular economy enters the picture.
What is the definition of a circular economy?
A circular economy is an economic system in which we keep resources (including food, plastics, cement, steel and aluminium) in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them and then recover and reform products and materials at the end of each service life.
Wassily Leontief, a German economist, first idealised this concept in 1928 through his work “The Economy as Circular Flow.” In 2008, China became the first country to adopt circular economy national policies, but Amsterdam is the world’s leading example as it strives to become a circular city by 2050.
Circular economy model and food waste
The topic of managing food waste in a circular economy can be addressed from various angles. First of all, assessing the amount of food waste generated and setting measures to prevent it should be the starting point.
Moreover, establishments across all industries and households should strive to valorise food waste, thus tripling the bottom line – socially, environmentally and economically. Here’s how they can contribute:
1. Consume better
Since the core concept of the circular economy lies in extracting the maximum value of each food product, it is therefore necessary to choose versions of foods that can be recycled or produced in more sustainable ways.
Even with careful planning on food shops each week, consumer lifestyle choices overtake such planned meals and mean a takeaway is purchased. Therefore, more food waste generated as the planned meal goes unused and spoils.
One example could be shifting to a plant-based diet, which offers natural resource benefits over meat-based meals. Alternatively, consuming food in sensible proportions can also make a massive difference to the circular economy.
Consumers, including individuals, couples and families, often are unable to finish the amount of food that they buy. The leftovers naturally end up trash. What food producers and grocery retailers can do is release smaller packets of food for sale.
2. Invest in Anaerobic Digestion technology
When the Republic of Korea banned food waste in landfills, that led to an impressive 95% of food waste being recycled into animal feed, solid fuel and biogas. The UK government has too introduced a compulsory food waste recycling program, which encourages recycling and reuse of foods.
Businesses, on the other hand, should invest in innovative food recycling technologies such as Anaerobic Digestion in which waste products get consumed by micro-organisms in an environment devoid of oxygen.
Food manufacturers and supermarkets can dispose of their surplus food sustainably – with a little bit of investment. Moreover, this technology also produces biogas, a by-product used as an alternative fuel to provide cooling, heating or power.
Visit https://waste2es.com/large-systems/ to understand how our systems use AD for managing food waste.
3. Manage food inventories with an ERP system
A one-stop solution for food producers, restaurants, grocery retailers, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system helps them keep track of orders, predict more accurate inventory orders, assess the shelf life of each food item, prevent overstocking and more.
Deploying such a system can help businesses take corrective action, such as reducing the amount of food items they order or ordering supplies or ingredients at a later date. This will help them save thousands of pounds’ worth of food.
4. Turn leftovers into creative new food dishes
Pubs and restaurants, for example, can convert extra amounts of food into filling for sandwiches or wraps, and leftover beer can be used for baking beer bread. Similarly, consumers who end up with extra groceries can pickle vegetables or convert fruits into sauces and jams.
Tired veggies can also be used to make soups or broth. All these recycling ideas can help businesses and consumers use food sensibly and even save money in the process.
5. Sell upcycled food items at a high cost
Wonky-looking vegetables and fruits can be repurposed into products that health-conscious consumers will be willing to pay a premium for, as they do with vegan and organic food.
For example, Barnana sells snacks made from overripe bananas, and New Foods creates vitamin supplements from orange peels. This is called upselling and helps food manufacturers earn more profit by using every part of a food item.
Grocery retailers, on the other hand, can ensure these products have a separate aisle so that pro-recycling and health-conscious consumers know where to go.
6. Donate excess food supplies
The pandemic has led to an increase in stockpiling, which means many consumers are unable to access the food items they need. This is where using platforms like Snackpass and OLIO can help in food redistribution on a community level.
For example, supermarkets can partner with such volunteer apps to collect food supplies and distribute them in charities and soup kitchens.
Over to you
Shifting to a circular economy won’t happen overnight. Research says if a more circular economy was adopted, over $1 trillion a year could be generated by 2025 for the global economy. Therefore, it is vital to take baby steps to create a world where people, nature, and economies survive and thrive.