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TFOW Report

The Future Of Waste Report

 
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As  demography is rising, increasing by one third by 2050, from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion people, the common belief is that there might not be enough food to feed everyone by 2050, hence the imperative to increase food production.

According to the FAO, based on current trends, global agricultural production need to increase by  70% and double in developing countries to meet the growing food demand by mid-century. However, it is not so much the population growth that is  problematic but the failures of the current worldwide food system: global agriculture is currently producing way more food than  the  world  population needs. But nearly one third of the food produced for human consumption  (1.3  billion  tons/year)  is lost or wasted!  Just one fourth of the food currently lost or wasted could feed the 870 million people suffering from undernourishment

 
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Food is thus not lacking but needs to be better managed in order to ensure food security. We need to find solutions that are not only adapted to the different steps in the food chain, but also to the local context where food loss and waste occur.

 
 

Improving  food  chain  efficiency will ensure better food security, providing more food,  and will  reduce poverty,  as food loss directly impacts small farmers  economically and increases costs for  poorer consumers. This is also an opportunity to innovate, as food waste streams and by-products are traditionally used for low-value animal feed or compost, to upcycle these available materials into high-value added ingredients.

 
 

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Beyond calories, food waste is also contributing to utrient loss while a growing number of people are suffering from malnutrition throughout the world, both in developed and developing countries. As the demand for nutritious and healthy food keeps growing, the food industry must play a significant role in providing healthier options, making sure that  nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers. 

INNOVATE  WITH  THE  NUTRITIVE POTENTIAL  OF  FOOD  PROCESSING BY- PRODUCTS: Recycling nutrients from food waste, in particular from fruit and vegetables, to be incorporated into  processed foods in order to replace unhealthy ingredients and to craft new functional products is one promising way to provide good nutrition for all. Indeed, the  non-edible parts of fruit and vegetables, such as peels, seeds, stems, leaves and stones often present similar or even higher contents of antioxidant and antimicrobial  compounds  than the final product.

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In that respect, research has a critical role to play in bringing recognition of nutritious by-products in order to spur food innovation that can also address health issues. Scientists are also studying the link between nutrition and health, starting to investigate the intestinal microbiota to understand how the microorganisms living in our gut work, influence our immune system and prevent diseases. Nutrition, through dietary fibers and polyphenols intake, has a positive impact on our intestinal microbiota. Fruit and vegetable food processing by-products are therefore a new potential source for crafting functional foods or nutraceuticals to address health and nutrition issues related to intestinal dysbiosis.

 
 

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Food  waste contributes significantly to the depletion,  deterioration  and disturbance of natural  ecosystems and biodiversity  but  also, directly  and indirectly,  to GHG  emissions. The environmental impact of food waste is felt at all stages of the food system, from the use of toxic  substances for production to unsustainable waste management practices, contaminating the environment.

The economic cost of this food wastage is estimated to be around US$700 billion in environmental damage that will have to be  paid for  by  society  and  future generations,  according  to  the  Full-Cost Accounting  (FCA) of  the food wastage footprint conducted by the FAO. 

TACKLE FOOD WASTE TO PRESERVE BIODIVERSITY: Food waste has also a significant impact on  wildlife.  While  animals  have  fed  on human leftovers throughout history, the current high level of food waste has altered the  balance of the animal world. As a consequence, food waste affects animal demographics, habitat location and behaviors including reproduction patterns and  predator-prey relationships.

TOWARDS A LOW CARBON ECONOMY: Industries are shifting to bio-based feedstocks to develop  alternative sustainable raw materials to petroleum feedstocks. However, even though they secured  sustainable and traceable supply chains, land degradation, competitive use over food consumption and refurbishment time have to be considered to design a viable loop. In this regard, using  food  waste  streams  as new raw materials is a promising option, as  it  would  reduce  the  use  of  raw materials from fossil-based carbon while preventing methane release from landfills. 

 
 

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We already  consume  the  equivalent  of  1.6 planets to provide the resources we use and  waste. And yet, our consumption of natural  resource is still increasing, driving by the consumer  demands  for  all-natural products  as it serves multiple purposes, including food, energy, medicine, beauty,  and clothes.

One solution to the problem is to keep resources within the economic system for longer by recovering food waste and by-products as new raw material, as they do not require any extra farmland, water or energy, thus contributing to the preservation of natural resources.

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GOING CIRCULAR: USE WASTE AS A RESOURCE: Using  waste  as  a  resource,  enabling companies  to  reduce  their  reliance  on virgin  materials.  Redesigning  the  food chain  based  on  a  circular  model  would reduce food loss and food waste and re-integrate food  waste into the  productive cycle of the circular economy.

However, to embed circular principles into the food chain,  stakeholders  are  facing  several challenges: being able to identify  opportunities along the value chain; unlock supply chain blockages through a multi-stakeholder approach; improve knowledge for food waste recovery; ensure economic viability; adopt  a  systemic  vision, taking into account all aspects of a product’s lifecycle from design to recovery; going  local, to keep the beneficial effect of the circular model in terms of carbon footprint.

 
 

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FROM RESEARCH TO INDUSTRY: The research into food waste valorization has  attracted  a  lot  of  attention  over  the past few years as a potential alternative to  food  waste  disposal. While  there  are  very  promising  scientific results  at  the  research  stage, this scientific knowledge  needs  to  be  translated  into efficient  and  economically  viable industrial  processes  to  reach  full-scale production. 

Many  hurdles  remain  to achieve  practical  and  profitable processes and business  models  at  the industry level such as technological and commercial immaturity, high costs, limited availability, safety regulatory standards, consistency in final product, consumer acceptance, ect.

GOING CIRCULAR TOGETHER: Food waste concerns all stages along the food chain and  therefore  all lines of business. The food system  is also embedded  into complex  global  supply chains:  production  and  consumption often  take  place  in  different  countries, involving  multiple companies around the world.

 
 

Reducing  food  waste  therefore  requires systemic  change  and  for  this  reason, there is a need for collaboration between all stakeholders as it cannot be achieved by  any  single  actor. Partnerships  can  lead  to different  goals,  from  being  inspired, learning from best practices and sharing knowledge  to  promote  synergies  and strengthen  means  of  action  and  mutual aid. 

 
 

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To  reduce  food  waste,  a  first, common sense  solution  would  be to throw  out uneaten food.  Among  the  best-known initiatives  to  reduce  food  waste  are awareness  ad  campaigns,  regularly deployed to raise consumer’s awareness of food waste  and  national  bans  on throwing  out  unsold  food  in  favor  of donations. However, such initiatives leave the biggest  problems  unsolved:  they  only alleviate  food  waste  issue  at  the  end  of the  food  chain,  but  they  don’t  solve  the real issue of food waste upstream.

Science and technology can contribute solutions all along the food chain to reduce food waste significantly, whether through electronic sensors or low tech devices to help reduce the significant  amount  of  waste associated with food logistics and ensure that  food  stays  fresher  as  long  as possible ; the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence to improve traceability and optimize storing ; the development of smart packaging thanks to nanotechnologies and traditional knowledge; or by making fruit and vegetable more resistant to spoilage with biotechnologies. Discover these promising solutions!

 
 

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Fruit and vegetable waste contains components and nutrients (dietary fibers, polyphenols, ect) with health benefits that can be extracted and valorized to enhance the nutritional profile of existing processed food and/or create new functional foods.

Social scipreneurs around the world are indeed creating new functional ingredients in order to substitute unhealthy ingredients in highly processed food products and provide a healthier composition. Monterrey-based startup Genius Foods is turning mango seeds, peels and leftover pulp into a fiber-packed powder that acts as an emulsifier to replace up to 50% of the  eggs and oil in baked goods. Green Spot Technologies, a  spin-off  company  of  the  University  of Auckland, specializes in the valorization of fruit and vegetable  by-products  into  high  value-added  food  products  using disruptive fermentation technology.

 
 

Major companies are also on board! The American food company Sir Kengsinton developed a new ingredient to make an eggless mayonnaise, from a by-product of hummus manufacturing: aquafaba, the viscous water left over after draining chickpeas. In  2014,  PepsiCo  partnered  with  the Clinton Foundation and Acceso Cashew Enterprise, an Indian social enterprise, to create a new supply chain for the cashew fruit, which contains as much as five times the vitamin C of an orange and is incorporated into some of its blended juice products under the Tropicana label so far.

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Beyond  the  food  industry,  food waste can be recycled for multiple applications, from  textiles  and  fashion  to  packaging, cosmetics and  building  materials,  opening  up new economic opportunities for food processing industries.

 
 

Food waste can provide sustainable fibers for the fashion industry, bio-based packaging and building material. Lipids contained into fruit waste can also be incorporated into cosmectic formulas to benefit from their properties while ensuring a sustainable sourcing of natural ingredients. Polyphenols, with antioxydant properties, present in the seeds, stems and leaves of fruit and vegetable can be recycled as active ingredients for the beauty industry. Among them, anthocyanins can be also recycled as natural pigments for the food and the fashion industry. Discover which start-ups and major players are pioneering these fields!

 
 

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Recycling its own food waste streams is a good way for an industry to achieve a zero waste strategy and to reduce its negative impact. Recycling another industry’s waste stream, however, has a tremendous positive impact as it absorbs external waste while spurring innovation and opening new business opportunities. In the food industry, waste and by-products can have a large number of very different applications, giving industries the opportunity to collaborate across sectors and to innovate together. Some major companies have already settled collaborative partnerships around food waste!

 
 

As this circular model of food waste streams is only starting to take shape, new players are emerging as facilitators to support and bridge all stakeholders involved in the food chain and other industries. Large companies can also rely on social entrepreneurs as explorers! Nowadays, consumers have become more and more socially conscious and are moving to ethical consumption: as a result, large scale companies can no longer limit themselves to charity actions or philanthropic collaborations. As visionaries and pathfinders, social entrepreneurs, with knowledge from the field, are strategic players to partner with. Discover which key players are taking part to this kind of successful collaborations!

 
 

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