Case studies on circular economy: good practices on food scraps

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Food scraps can be used as animal feed or as an input for other industries

The feed sector is an example of a sector with a long tradition on the use of co-products and by-products. The animal nutrition has a long tradition and experience to use and valorise co-products and byproducts from many agri-food sectors (i.e. pulps, peels, seeds…) as feed ingredients i.e. pulps and peels from the fruit and vegetable sector, seeds, molasses, and beet pulp beer grain. This is indeed a very good example of good synergy between crop and livestock farmers, cooperatives and other industrial processes showing the value of producers closely connected to share the benefits of resource-efficient activities.

  • HKScan (Meat producer)

Nordic meat producer HKScan has been putting into place different measures to increase industrial symbiosis. Food industry manufacturing processes are optimised and surplus food is redirected to feed people or animals to prevent food wastage. Meanwhile, the parts of the animals that are not sold as food are used for pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, animal feed, pet food and biodiesel for renewable energy. Wastewater sludge and cow stomach content are turned into biogas, resulting in renewable energy for car fuel, electricity and heating and nutrients for soil improvement and organic fertilizers.

  • PIK Vrbovec (Meat producer)

Of the total volume of all categories of waste for Croatian meat processor PIK Vrbovec, approximately 70% is recycled or reused. Of the food scraps categorised as animal by-products, the majority of it (57%) is used in the nearby biogas plant, while the remainder is sold to companies producing pet food, animal proteins and animal fat. Annual savings resulting from this novel approach to industrial symbiosis amount to 330,000 euros.

  • British Sugar plc (sugar beet factory)

Wissington is a sugar beet factory founded in 1925 as part of British Sugar. The plant supplies 420,000 tons of sugar per year in various forms, exporting it from sugar beets grown in eastern England. The team at Wissington is constantly evaluating its operation to capitalize on its former lost streams of energy and materials. The result is a factory that produces not just sugar, but 12 different marketable products, from precious chemicals to animal and human foods.

Preventing food waste

In June 2013, FoodDrinkEurope launched the joint food waste prevention campaign and declaration entitled ‘Every Crumb Counts’ (ECC). Signatories involved stakeholders across Europe’s food supply chain such as the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA), Sustainable Restaurants Association and European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel) and are supported by UNEP and WRAP. It calls for, amongst others; a supply chain approach, raise awareness of information to consumers and of food redistribution channels. In 2016, FoodDrinkEurope alongside the European Food Banks Association (FEBA) and with the support of EuroCommerce launched joint food donation Every Meal Matters guidelines. The guidelines outline a simple framework of practical steps that can be undertaken to help food and drink manufacturers anticipate and prepare for any potential surplus that may arise in the business. They have been developed as a continuation and reinforcement of the food and drink industry’s broad commitments to tackle food waste.

Food and drink manufacturers actively work to prevent food losses from occurring during the production process. However, food or its packaging may occasionally be damaged during the production process, making it perfectly edible but unsuitable for sale. In such instances, FoodDrinkEurope has developed an industry toolkit on food waste, where it encourages food and drink manufacturers to find alternative channels, such as food donation partners or markets, to redirect surplus food to people.

Innovative new products are made from food and ingredients that are leftover from production and still edible. For example, potato processors find many uses for potato cut-offs. Most potato processors use cut-offs of potatoes to make potato flakes or purées. Possibilities for future innovation from cut-offs and shredded potatoes include hash browns and other formed products. The wet starch by-product from the cutting process also finds other uses as in many cases it goes to potato starch industries or is being used to produce bioplastics.

Sources:

  • European Food Sustainable Consumption & Production Round Table (EFSC & PRT) (2018). Enhancing the contribution of the agri-food value chain to the circular economy. Version 1.0, 19 February 2018.
  • FoodDrinkEurope (2016). Ingredients for a circular economy. Brussels

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