Circular economy and waste in agri-food industry: some examples of eco-friendly choices

Today, more than ever, sustainability is essential in every part of our lives.

Building a sustainable and responsible supply chain system is a priority for many businesses. Most companies recognize that managing and improving the environment, social and economic performance, can help organizations to preserve resources and optimize processes.

The horticultural products industry, which refers to the fruits and vegetables sector, can benefit from the circular economy principles by implementing strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste.

Circular economy and agri-food wastes

Do you know the importance of the circular economy in the fruits and vegetables industry?

A circular economy is a production and consumption model in which existing materials and products are shared, reused, repaired, refurbished and recycled for as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of the product is extended.

This means that waste materials can be used as inputs for other processes, reducing the need for virgin resources and decreasing waste.

The application of the circular economy is mostly seen in the field of agricultural products, because the problems that can be solved by the circular economy are inherent and systematic.

In the horticultural products industry, this can be achieved by implementing practices such as composting, recycling, and upcycling.

There are several circular economy’s principles which can be used to increase sustainability and reduce waste in the fruits and vegetables sector:

  • implementing closed-loop systems;
  • encouraging the use of biodegradable packaging and recycling of packaging materials;
  • implementing precision agriculture techniques to optimize the use of resources such as water and energy;
  • encouraging local sourcing and distribution, reducing the carbon footprint of transportation;
  • reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and instead of using natural methods as composting and crop rotation to improve soil health and productivity.

Closed loop-systems, for example, are where waste materials from one process are used as inputs for another process, such as using food waste to create compost for agricultural use. Food waste, green waste and other organic materials can be composted to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used in agriculture, rather than being sent to a landfill.

Agricultural wastes can be converted into biological products such as fertilizers, energy, materials and compounds.Controlling food waste and transforming it into new resources or products that introduce reuse, repair and recycling principles can help local economies by generating profit streams and reducing long-term environmental damage.

From the fields to the farms, every year you can recover fruit and vegetable waste that return to new life through regeneration processes that transform materials to be landfilled in resources for farms.

For instance, tomato peels, residues from the processing of corn, fruits and legumes can be recycled, giving them a new life. These residues are destined to farms for zootechnical food use or for feeding biogas plants. Residues from the processing of peas, beans and other vegetables are also recovered as agricultural fertilizer or used in the livestock sector.

What can we do? Some eco-friendly advices

To reduce food waste, every single person has to change their habits and lifestyle in a more sustainable way.

Our lives are often hectic and short-lived. Preparing nutritious meals in advance can be a challenge. It is right, however, to remember that a “healthy” meal is often not synonymous with “elaborate meal”.

A quick and healthy recipe can be characterized by even a few foods.

The circular economy starts from the shopping cart.

If you organize your meals well, then you already know what and especially how much you need to buy, also avoiding impulsive purchases.

Here are some ways in which you can reduce food waste:

  • Store your food wisely
  • Re-use the food leftover
  • Support local food producers
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Do not waste water while cooking

Overall, a circular economy approach can help the horticultural industry to minimize waste, conserve resources, and improve efficiency and sustainability, while providing healthier and more affordable food products for consumers.

We all have to remember that we can improve the world by making small choices everyday and use the food in a more sustainable way.