The Future Of Waste Report
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A +100 pages competitive inteligence report on a theme of strategic interest
An analysis of the key social and environmental challenges in connection with the SDGs
Concrete examples of the latest scientific breakthrough and disruption products or technologies
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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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