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How Food Waste Recovery Improves Sustainability of Food Systems

By: , Posted on: March 28, 2016

sustainability ven diagram charis galanakis

Sustainability is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. However, this definition is difficult to be understood or applied by organizations that have specific responsibilities to the society, beyond their economic and legal obligations. Responsibility means that people, planet and profit should be considered as a whole system, needing balance. By balancing the social and environmental elements of sustainability, long-term profitability could be achieved.

A food system is defined as the sum of all the diverse elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, institutions, etc) and activities related to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and their socio-economic and environmental outcomes. Sustainability could be illustrated through the product stewardship concept, which is defined by the shared responsibilities that all participants in a product’s life cycle have for minimizing its environmental and health impacts. A product’s responsibilities in a supply chain do not end when the product is delivered to consumers. This means that product manufacturers, retailers, users and disposers are responsible for the health, safety and environmental impacts of their products across their life cycle (e.g. from raw material extraction to use and disposal).  Thus, there is a need for balancing food products responsibilities (e.g. economic, social and environmental) throughout the supply chain.

Today, there is a need to decrease food loss across the supply chain, but also to identify ways to best utilise discharged food mass. Although waste arises at every stage of the food supply chain, the causes of its generation vary depending on the supply chain stage. Effective food waste management will benefit all supply chain members.  Reducing processing food wastes by recovering valuable compounds and developing new products can significantly improve the sustainability of the food production system, considering the following ways.

Economic sustainability improvements

Effective waste management is critical to increase profitability levels of food chain members. Reductions in energy and raw material usage can reduce costs and simultaneously increase the environmental performance of the food system. This will be achieved through the efficient use of the materials and energy used for production. Efficient use of materials in the food waste recovery process has two meanings. Firstly, utilizing the material that otherwise will have been discharged, and secondly processing that material in an efficient way.

For instance, potato peels and processing waste water (intended to thrown away) could be used for the extraction of phenols and thus being transformed to a new material with an economic value. Cheese processing whey is another example that could be used to recover sweeteners, prior their implementation in nutritional supplements. Through the recovery of those valuable materials huge energy savings are achieved. This process could also enable compliance with different types of food regulations, which are used to check regulatory compliance of other food products. For example, the water insoluble fiber could improve intestinal regulation and consequently could be used to supplement food products or ready meals. Thereafter, economic benefits could be achieved since the need to buy ingredients or develop new products does not exist.

Social, economic and environmental sustainability improvements

Food security is defined as “a situation that exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO, 2011). It comprises of four elements: food availability, food access, food utilization and food stability. Improving food availability (the constant delivery of sufficient food quantity to populations) increases food security. However, not only food production increase but also the optimization of currently food production systems will feed the continuously growing population. This approach includes re-utilization of substrates that are nowadays considered as food waste. Using the appropriate valorisation methods means that valuable compounds are extracted and used to develop new food products or even extending the shelf-life of already existing ones.

The creation of new food products could steadily increase food availability. For example, phenols and carotenoids from fruit processing by-products could be used as natural food or beverage preservatives as they extent product’s shelf-life and increase antioxidant capacity. By delaying product’s deterioration, food availability increases and subsequently people’s livelihoods increase. The recovery of food wastes valuable components could also help in promoting the viability and diversity of rural and urban economies. It is a hype area and there is a lot of potential in creating innovative and sustainable solutions. Finally yet importantly, the environmental impact of the food industry diminishes as the usage of primary resources is reduced.

More information about the interaction of food waste recovery with food systems sustainability can be found in Chapter 1.

About the Book

Food Waste Recovery: Processing Technologies and Industrial Techniques acts as a guide to recover valuable components of food by-products and recycle them inside the food chain, in an economic and sustainable way. The book investigates all the relevant recovery issues and compares different techniques to help you advance your research and develop new applications. Strong coverage of the different technologies is included, while keeping a balance between the characteristics of current conventional and emerging technologies. This is an essential reference for research outcomes. Click here for figures as they relate to the development and recovery strategy.

Key features of the book include:

food waste recovery• Presents a holistic methodology (the so-called “5-Stages Universal Recovery Process”) and a general approach (the so-called “Universal Recovery Strategy”) to ensure optimized management of the available technologies and recapture of different high added-value compounds from any waste source
• Includes characteristics, safety and cost issues of conventional and emerging technologies, the benefits of their application in industry, and commercialized applications of real market products
• Demonstrates all aspects of the recovery process such as preservation of the substrate, yield optimization, preservation of functionality of the target compounds during processing, and more

Visit the Elsevier Store to purchase your copy today. Use discount code “STC215″ at checkout and save up to 30%!

About the Editor

charis galanakisCharis M. Galanakis is a dynamic and interdisciplinary scientist with a fast-expanding work that balances between food and environment, industry and academia. His research targets mainly the separation and recovery of functional macro- and micro-molecules from different food by-products, as well as their implementation as additives in food and other products. He is the research & innovation director of Galanakis Laboratories (Chania, Greece), the co-founder of Phenoliv AB (Lund, Sweden) and the coordinator of Special Interest Group 5 of ISEKI Food Association (Vienna, Austria), which is the biggest network worldwide in the field of Food Waste Recovery. He serves as an editorial board member and subject editor of Food and Bioproducts Processing and Food Research International.

Follow Dr. Galanakis via Twitter – @CharisGalanakis, LinkedIn or ResearchGate.
Meet Dr. Galanakis at the Food Waste Recovery Workshop, join the Food Waste Recovery Group on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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Food Science & Nutrition

The field of food science is highly interdisciplinary, spanning areas of chemistry, engineering, biology, and many more. Researchers in these areas achieve fundamental advances in our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and food-borne illness, and develop new technologies, like food processing methods and packaging material. Against a backdrop of global issues of food supply and regulation, this important work is supported by Elsevier’s catalog of books, eBooks, and journals in food science, considered essential resources for students, instructors, and health professionals worldwide. Learn more about our Food Science and Nutrition books here.