The food and drink industry is a major contributor to the overall pollution load in Europe. The sector is a major energy user (10-15% of total energy in industrialised countries) and a major user of water (8% of all water used by the industrial sector). A 2006 UK government report on “Environmental Impacts of Food Production and Consumption” indicated that dairy products have the second highest environmental impacts in the sector, with milk, cheese and butter contributing up to 4% of the global warming potential of consumption, and up to 13% to eutrophication.
Within the dairy industry supply chain, dairy farming produces the most greenhouse gas emissions. However, according to a recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation study, up to 55% of the total environmental impacts of dairy products come from the processing stage. The main challenges that dairy processing plants face are water consumption, effluent discharge, energy consumption and emissions.
Meanwhile, consumers and stakeholders are putting an increased focus on the environment. In this regard, the European Commission developed the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) as a single metric to assess and benchmark the environmental performance of products. To make PEF studies more consistent, technical guidance for specific product categories, or Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs) have been developed. However, application of the PEF methodology is often too complex for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The European Commission has identified some key actions to tackle this: provide tools to support SMEs and make sure that PEFCRs represent a simplification of the application of PEF.
Life-RENDER will develop and demonstrate an innovative decision-support tool that will help SMEs in the food and drink sector to carry out PEFCR-compliant studies and to identify focused environmental measures. The project will promote the implementation of the PEF methodology at European level as a key tool to assess life-cycle environmental performance of products, and to communicate them to business consumers and stakeholders. The tool will be usable by non-experts through simplified data collection and analysis processes.
The project’s specific objectives are to:
The project has the potential to contribute to the implementation of a number of EU directives, including the Industrial Emissions Directive, the National Emission Ceilings Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Waste Framework Directive, and the Urban Waste Water Directive. The EU Circular Economy Action Plan also identifies food waste and plastic waste (packaging) as priority areas.