How to Create a Sustainable Environment from Supermarket Waste
Supermarkets are one of the major sources of food waste in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chain, and supermarkets account for about 11% of this amount. This means that every year, millions of tons of edible food end up in landfills, where they emit greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.
But what if we could turn this problem into an opportunity? What if we could use supermarket waste to create a sustainable environment for ourselves and future generations? In this blog post, we will explore some of the ways that supermarket waste can be transformed into valuable resources for various purposes, such as energy production, composting, animal feed, and bioplastics.
Energy production: One of the most common ways to utilize supermarket waste is to convert it into biogas, a renewable source of energy that can be used for heating, cooking, electricity generation, and transportation. Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion, a process that breaks down organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The main components of biogas are methane and carbon dioxide, which can be captured and purified for various uses. For example, some supermarkets in the UK have installed anaerobic digesters on their premises, which allow them to generate biogas from their own waste and use it to power their stores and vehicles.
Composting: Another way to make use of supermarket waste is to compost it, which means to turn it into organic fertilizer that can enrich the soil and support plant growth. Composting is a natural process that involves microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that decompose organic matter in the presence of oxygen. The resulting product is called compost, which contains nutrients and humus that improve the soil structure and water retention. Composting can be done at home, in community gardens, or in large-scale facilities. For example, some supermarkets in France have partnered with local farmers to collect their unsold fruits and vegetables and compost them on their farms.
Animal feed: A third option to utilize supermarket waste is to feed it to animals, such as pigs, chickens, or fish. This can help reduce the demand for animal feed crops, such as soybeans and corn, which require large amounts of land, water, and fertilizers. Animal feed can be made from various types of supermarket waste, such as bakery products, dairy products, meat products, and produce. However, some precautions need to be taken to ensure the safety and quality of the feed, such as avoiding contamination with harmful substances or pathogens. For example, some supermarkets in Japan have developed a system that sterilizes and dries their food waste before sending it to pig farms.
Bioplastics: A fourth possibility to transform supermarket waste is to make bioplastics from it, which are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources instead of fossil fuels. Bioplastics can have similar properties and applications as conventional plastics, but they have the advantage of being biodegradable or compostable under certain conditions. Bioplastics can be made from various types of supermarket waste, such as starches from potatoes or corn, cellulose from paper or cardboard, or proteins from eggshells or feathers. For example, some researchers in Italy have created a bioplastic film from eggshell proteins that can be used for food packaging.
As we have seen, supermarket waste can be a valuable resource for creating a sustainable environment. By applying these methods, we can reduce the environmental impact of food waste, save money and energy, create new products and markets, and contribute to a circular economy. The next time you visit a supermarket, think about how you can help reduce food waste and support these initiatives.
: FAO (2011). Global food losses and food waste – Extent causes and prevention. Rome: FAO.
: Waitrose (2018). Waitrose & Partners launches trial with FareShare FoodCloud app. Retrieved from https://waitrose.pressarea.com/pressrelease/details/78/NEWS_13/10169
: Carrefour (2019). Carrefour launches its first “Urban Farm” in France. Retrieved from https://www.carrefour.com/en/newsroom/carrefour-launches-its-first-urban-farm-france
: Japan Times (2017). Japan’s supermarkets turn unsold food into fertilizer for farms. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/21/business/japans-supermarkets-turn-unsold-food-fertilizer-farms/
: Scampicchio M., et al. (2017). Eggshell membrane: A natural substrate for immobilization of enzymes with potential use in food packaging applications. Food Chemistry 237: 281-287.