The food we consume has an embedded environmental impact due to the energy and natural resources used, and the associated emissions generated, throughout its lifecycle. As a result, the later a product is lost along the food production chain, the higher is the environmental cost. The overall amount of wasted food disposed of at a landfill in the EU every year (over 40 million tonnes) contributes to around 76 MtCO2eq/year emissions, without taking into account transportation and packaging. This figure could be significantly reduced if food waste is reduced at the wholesale-retailer, catering industry, bakery, food processing and farming levels.
The general objective of the i-REXFO LIFE project is to demonstrate the feasibility, sustainability and replicability of an innovative business approach that combines food waste reduction and food waste energy valorisation. The aim is to prevent landfilling and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and create new opportunities for using ‘expired food’. Specific objectives are to: Develop and test a tool for the design, application and transfer of the i-REXFO approach, usable by stakeholders and investors, to help define geographical area, feasibility, business models, guidelines for legislative framework and permit release, and the bioenergy potential of waste food; Demonstrate the sustainability of a Reduction of Expired Food (REF) strategy through demonstrative actions in Umbria (Italy), in malls and in establishments that prepare and serve food and beverages (hotels, restaurants and cafes: HoReCa), with actions focused on promoting the use of near-to-expiration food, distribution to charities, and consumer engagement based on label information and pricing policy; Develop and demonstrate the sustainability of an Expired Food to Energy (EFE) strategy through actions in Umbria for biogas energy generation from expired food from consumers, wholesale-retail, HoReCa, food processing and farming sectors; and Demonstrate economically self-sustaining actions to reduce the amount of food landfilled, based on tax reductions and earnings derived from the Expired Food to Energy (EFE) chain.
The project actions will help achieve the goals of the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, including halving food waste by 2020 and measures to encourage the separate collection of bio-waste, along with the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Landfill Directive and the Waste Framework Directive.
Expected results: The i-REXFO LIFE project is expected to achieve the following results: Reduction of 3 470 tonnes of food waste from wholesale/retail, HoReCa, food processing and farming sectors; Increase of 1 610 tonnes in the amount of surplus food recovered from wholesale-retail and HoReCa, and donated to charities (in Umbria, plus two Italian and two Hungarian regions); Involvement of nearly 130 000 consumers in awareness raising actions on the significance of food expiration labelling, and proper storage and consumption; Reduction of 7.4% in the amount of waste food landfilled from wholesale-retail, HoReCa, food processing and farming sectors, by implementation of a demonstration self-sustained biogas energy chain; Decrease of 8 537 tCO2eq/y of GHG deriving from food waste landfilling; Decreased water consumption due to waste food avoidance of 480 000 m3 per year; Decreased land use consumption due to avoided waste food of 1 080 ha per year; Production of 2 840 MWh/y of renewable energy by developing new management system for expired food; Development of an EU database on methane production capacity of different waste food categories integrated with the EU database for the availability of waste food; Development of guidelines to improve the legislative framework aimed at food waste prevention and the re-use of waste food for energy purposes; and Production of operative guidelines to assess the techno-economic feasibility of a self-sustained, biogas energy chain, based on the recovery of food waste from wholesale-retail, HoReCa, food processing and farming sectors, applicable at the EU scale.