Examples of the circular economy in action
The Global Food System
Our biggest untapped opportunity is to change the way we make, use, and design products to cut our carbon emissions much further and faster.
Alongside the climate and biodiversity benefits of a shift from a linear to a circular economy, businesses around the world are discovering the commercial benefits of circularity.
Though WRAP is already helping to develop a circular economy for the food system there are other examples of circular economy in action:
The Horizon 2020 AgroCycle consortium is comprised 26 partners from eight EU countries, two from China, and one from Hong Kong. Led by the School of Biosystems and Food Engineering at University College Dublin, Ireland, its key goal is to understand how to make the best use of the full range of agri-food waste streams.
The AgroCycle Protocol looks to develop a plan for a geographically European agri-food circular economy. Specific outputs include the development of new biodegradable materials from agri-waste, such as rice bran, which can be used in packaging and act as an alternative to single-use plastics. The organisation has also set up a trading platform for the industry, the AgroCycle-Platform, connecting waste producers with end-users and linking those who can potentially re-use or recycle various waste components from agri-food.
Additional research has focused on anaerobic digestion (AD), a form of renewable energy that converts organic crops, wastes and residues into biogas for electricity and heat generation. Agro-Cycle have researched the potential for animal manure, from egg laying hens and meat producing chickens, to be used as feedstocks for AD. The process produces a valuable by-product, digestate, and contains rich nutrients and can also be applied to soil to reduce fertiliser demand.
Such research is critical in illustrating how 'one person’s waste is another person’s treasure' and AgroCycle are helping to demonstrate how principles of the circular economy can be applied to agricultural waste.
Woolworths Supermarkets is Australia’s largest chain of grocery stores, with 995 stores operating nationwide. The organisation sources much of its produce locally, with 96% of fruits and vegetables and 100% of fresh meat coming from Australian farmers.
Food waste is a massive issue in Australia, costing AUD$20 billion every year. To combat the issue, in 2019 it was announced that 100% of Woolworths stores would run an active food waste landfill diversion programme. These programmes help to recover surplus fresh food, distributing it to hunger relief charity partner organisations, providing farmers with stock feed, and sending waste for commercial organic compost. Since the initiative began, Woolworths’ food waste sent to landfill has reduced by an average of 8% per annum.
Woolworths’ Stock Feed for Farmers programme has been in operation for more than 10 years, and works with not-for-profit partners to focus on redistributing unwanted food for more appropriate uses. Food that is no longer fit for human consumption is sent to farms to be used as animal feed or commercial organic composting.
Woolworths have also created a circular economy beer – Loafer. With the help of partners, Tribe Breweries, the pale ale has been created using over 350kg of leftover bread, with sales helping to deliver meals to vulnerable Australians. Money raised goes directly to community food relief charities to address the growing demand for food relief.
The results of Woolworths’ efforts have seen 55,000 tonnes of food being diverted form landfill, and the number of meals reaching those in need across Australia has topped 10 million. The Woolworths Stock Feed for Farmers programme has over 750 farmers and community groups involved, with over 33,00 tonnes of surplus food being redistributed to Australian farmers as livestock feed or composting.
Pigmento Naturale are based in Mefi, Italy, and their ethos is 'to extract colour from what nature offers us'. Their goal is to use traditional methods of natural dye application, while respecting the principles of environmental and economic sustainability. Pigmento have adapted ancient techniques, using innovation and technology while creating long-lasting jobs in the process.
The company have developed a process which allows them to produce 100% natural dyes from agricultural waste. The dyes are free from additives and chemical contaminations. The dyes are then used across industries, including textiles, biohousing and cosmetics.
The California-based company MiTerro are ‘an award-winning social impact biotechnology company’ which creates plastic-alternative biomaterials made from agricultural waste. Their goal is to end plastic and food waste while redefining the circular economy through innovative solutions and technology – primarily through the way in which agricultural waste (including both vegan and dairy) is upcycled and engineered to create alternatives to plastic used in food, packaging, and textiles industries.
Addressing the key issues of food waste and plastic packaging waste, MiTerro create sustainable and durable flexible packaging materials made from milk waste. They have also developed a process that will transform milk that is surplus or inedible / spoiled into a premium textile fibre to be used in clothing and other fashion accessories. Creating textiles from milk waste has the benefit of being high-quality, breathable, anti-bacterial, and three times softer than cotton. As well as fashion / textiles and plastic food packaging, MiTerro also used milk waste to create home textiles such as duvets, as well as personal necessities such as toilet paper, and medical and healthcare accessories such as face masks.
Other examples of Sustainable Consumption and Production initiatives are listed in the One Planet Network database.