Skip to main content
Home » Sustainable Business » Sowing the seeds of change: bringing a circular economy to the food industry

Sarah Benton

Senior Writer, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Discover circular solutions tackling food waste, biodiversity loss and the climate crisis in the food industry.

Manufacturers and retailers have the power to change the way our food system works — for the good of nature, people and the economy. From the blatant, like leftovers on a buffet table, to the lesser-known, such as misshapen potatoes not ‘good enough’ for supermarket shelves, the food industry has a waste problem.

Mitigating food waste

Six rubbish trucks of food are lost or wasted every second; that’s almost one-third of all the food we produce. Aside from the obvious economic losses, our wasteful global food system is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss and is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Using circular design, the food industry has the potential to create products that help nature thrive — addressing the interconnected challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution and waste.

Six rubbish trucks of food are lost or
wasted every second; that’s almost
one-third of all the food we produce.

Circular food redesign

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the Big Food Redesign Challenge a year ago, with the Sustainable Food Trust, to incorporate circular principles within food products. Out of over 400 applications from across the world, 166 food and drink products have been granted access to the production phase of the Challenge.

The Challenge is built upon the Foundation’s circular design for food framework (which also forms the judging criteria). It’s rooted in regenerative production but extends to three key ingredient sourcing strategies — lower-impact, diverse and upcycled — as well as a circular approach to packaging.

Upcycled food solutions

Tullamore-based BiaSol is a prime example. To make its Challenge-approved product, Spent Grain Granola, it’s collaborating with Irish craft breweries to replace up to 50% of the flour with upcycled spent grains. This reduces land use pressures and carbon emissions; diverts waste; and creates a new revenue stream for participating breweries.

Another example is Dublin-based Bí URBAN. It’s upcycling ‘wonky’ potatoes that have been rejected by supermarkets to make its SPUDS ‘Crisps with a Conscience.’ It’s using a blight-resistant, drought-resistant and virus-resistant potato variety, which doesn’t require groundwater-polluting fungicides. All spuds will be regeneratively grown and fertilised with green manure and farm waste.

If you work in or with the food industry and are excited to sow these seeds of change, reach out. We’re particularly interested in hearing from retailers keen to stock the successful products, joining us in creating a food system that works for, rather than against, nature.

Get in touch and learn more. Contact [email protected]

Next article