15 October 2018 “Food waste is not only unethical; it is a shameful waste of natural and economic resources,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, at the recent LIFE platform meeting on food waste in Budapest. He added that it has no place in the EU, where 55 million people go without a quality meal every second day.
Much political energy therefore is being invested in the issue. Commissioner Andriukaitis emphasised its urgency, given the EU has only 12 years to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 target of halving per capita food waste. Revised EU legislation obliges Member States to introduce national programmes and report their results to the Commission. Angelo Salsi, Head of LIFE and CIP Eco-innovation Unit within EASME, said that Integrated LIFE projects could be a good tool for developing and implementing them.
A clear message of the meeting was that monitoring the problem is an essential step towards tackling it. “What is measurable is manageable,” affirmed Commissioner Andriukaitis, but he added that new and better tools were needed for this task.
European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella was also eager to highlight the need to first measure food waste before developing packages to address it. “Preventing food waste will have a real impact on the environment,” he said.
Around 40 LIFE projects have already demonstrated ways in which food waste prevention can be achieved. The Platform Meeting was hosted by the National Food Chain Safety Office Hungary, the beneficiary of the project LIFE-FOODWASTEPREV.
The project recognises that a third of the 1.8 million tonnes of food waste generated every year in Hungary relates to household waste.
Its campaigns to change habits on food focus especially on school children, acknowledging that the behaviour of younger people is easier to influence. This point was emphasised by Robert Zsigo, Hungarian minister for food chain supervision. He said that the Hungarian government has introduced programmes for primary school education that tie in with the LIFE project’s summer camps and awareness-raising ‘waste less’ book for students. “We can’t regulate consumers, but…we can influence their behaviour,” said project leader Gyula Kasza of National Food Chain Safety Office.
But Dr Kasza also argued that the answers to the problem aren’t always clear. Food waste can’t simply be redistributed to the poor owing to safety issues. In fact, the distinction between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labelling was a recurring theme of the meeting, with many participants highlighting that greater awareness and a clearer understanding of the terms could in itself contribute to less food being wasted. While the Commission has introduced a new set of common guidelines for donation of surplus food, participants believe that safety definitions could be improved and that food no longer fit for human consumption could be made more easily available for use as animal feed.
The National Food Chain Safety Office furthermore has introduced a campaign, Szupermenta, to show that produce that is past its ‘best before’ is often indistinguishable from ‘fresher’ goods as well as to show that appearance doesn’t affect taste. Similar to the Portuguese LIFE project FLAW4LIFE project, the initiative is also addressing the amount of food that is discarded owing to its shape and size. Research shows that consumers are not sufficiently aware of the scale of the problem and half of food waste could be readily avoided, Dr Kasza concluded.
As part of the European Commission’s efforts toward developing the Circular Economy in Europe, it established the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste (FLW) in 2016. This brings together EU institutions, experts from the EU countries and relevant stakeholders selected through an open call for applications, in order to support measures for food waste prevention, to share best practice and to evaluate progress. Participants emphasised that LIFE project results should feed into this common tool to which all actors in the field across Europe can access. This would prevent initiatives ‘reinventing the wheel’ and a duplication of databases of best practice.
Indeed, Commissioner Andriukaitis pointed out that meetings such as the LIFE Platform Meeting are beneficial for building up common knowledge. Moreover, he said that a sub-group of the FLW will create a coordinated action plan on food date marking. “It will develop scientific and technical guidelines for more consistent marking practices.”
Food waste is a cross-sectoral issue. Commissioner Andriukaitis highlighted that food waste prevention has a role to play in meeting Europe’s Paris Climate Change targets as well as being part of a healthy eating strategy. Increasing the value placed on food, for example by increasing awareness of its nutritional benefit, goes hand in hand with preventing its waste.
Therefore, greater synergies across a range of policy areas – CAP, health and the environment etc. – could be better exploited. To the question of more regulation, Angelo Salsi said that he believed that the demand is strong, given the need to create a level playing field across Europe, but we also need 'better regulation' that avoids conflict between different rules.
Participants divided into working groups to discuss aspects of food waste across the food chain from producers to consumers. Here are some of their conclusions:
- Measuring food waste shows that progress can be made, but the long-term adoption of best practice remains a challenge.
- Vocational training in the retail sector could include food waste to further develop the curricular economy.
- Health and safety issues remain a hurdle for food redistribution and re-use.
- More data and information is required to form the basis for good decision-making, and as a consequence, projects expressed the need for more EU funding and more synergies between the different financing programmes.
- Further coordination of policies (agricultural, food safety, public procurement, fiscal, market standards, waste policies) is needed to avoid barriers in addressing food waste.
- The quantity of surplus food is commonly too much for food banks/charities to process and transport in the absence of additional funding and human resources.
- Legislation based on incentives to stop discarding unsold food, such as the one promoting food redistribution adopted in Italy have shown to be successful. The NOW LIFE project, formed a working group which helped influence the adoption of such as policy.
- Awareness-raising activities should be coupled with governance interventions providing incentives and/or disincentives in order to be effective.
Presentations are available below:
11 October 2018 Greece is home to Europe’s most southerly population of the brown bear (Ursus arctos). The country’s Kastoria district is an important area for the species, forming a natural corridor between sub-populations in Greece and the Western Balkans.
The expansion of Kastoria’s motorway network in the early 2000s increased pressure on the local sub-population, with the new Egnatia highway crossing these important bear habitats.
“There were no measures on the highway to avoid collisions between wildlife and vehicles - no infrastructure such as wildlife passages or green bridges,” says Spyros Psaroudas from environmental NGO CALLISTO and manager of the LIFE project ARCTOS/KASTORIA. “We started to have accidents immediately after the road opened. Fortunately, there were no human fatalities but most of the bears were killed.”
Swift action was needed to make the road safer. ARCTOS/KASTORIA used LIFE funds to identify the deadliest spots, by radio-tagging bears and following them via satellite. Then it installed traffic signs to warn motorists of the danger and wildlife deterrents – headlight reflectors – to discourage wildlife from crossing the road when vehicles were approaching.
“Later, the Greek government used other European and national funds to fence the road properly, with 3-m high reinforced fencing along 35 km,” adds Mr Psaroudas. The measures have almost completely eliminated lethal collisions of bears and vehicles on this stretch of motorway.
Land-use changes have allowed brown bears to extend their range and numbers in Kastoria, moving closer to human settlements in search of food and bringing them into conflict with the local population. This on top of the traditional problem for farmers of protecting their crops, orchards, beehives and livestock. To tackle such bear-human conflicts, ARCTOS/KASTORIA created a ‘bear emergency team’: “trained experts who visit hotspots, giving advice to local authorities and villagers, solving problems and helping to avoid them,” explains Mr Psaroudas. “For example, how to manage abandoned orchards close to villages to stop them attracting bears.”
The team can also carry out aversive conditioning or relocate bears away from human settlements if necessary. This was such a success that the Greek government decided to create more bear emergency teams and adopt the project’s methods nationwide.
Other measures to reduce conflicts with bears in rural areas included the use of bear-proof waste bins, providing guard dogs to protect livestock and installing electric fences to safeguard beehives and orchards.
ARCTOS/KASTORIA is a Best of the Best LIFE Nature & Biodiversity project 2016-17
9 October 2018 A host of LIFE projects are at the green technologies expo, ECOMONDO, next month. They will be showcasing their solutions reduce waste, noise, greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful environmental impacts.
Disposal of manure from livestock and poultry is a huge environmental challenge to farmers. In the Marche region of Italy, LIFE CHIMERA has built two prototype plants on chicken farms to convert the birds' manure into fertiliser. One plant is on a broiler farm, the other on a farm that keeps egg-laying hens. “Broiler farms have a storage system based on 90-day cycles; laying hens have a continuous manure collection system. We wanted to demonstrate that the CHIMERA plant is a valid solution for both,” explains Elisabetta Giromini from project beneficiary, TRE P Engineering.
The prototype plants have been treating 80 kg per hour of mannure, with good results: “ammonia emissions are reduced to zero and the ashes and sludge, following the most recent tests, can be transformed into NPK fertiliser pellets,” says Ms Giromini. The next stage is to build a full-scale plant - processing 250 kg per hour of manure - at a broiler farm in the Netherlands next year.
LIFE CHIMERA will also generate thermal energy from the manure to heat henhouses and enough electrical energy to support the farm's daily activities.
In Spain, a close-to-market project called LIFE-HEAT-R is taking advantage of a thermoelectric principle called the Seebeck effect to recover waste heat from industrial processes and turn it into electricity. Trials will take place at an oil refinery, steel mill, and cement works. These are expected to become 15% more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount. AEInnova, the company behind the project, plans to integrate its new energy-harvesting solution into the non-metals, paper and food industries after the project.
Landfills are a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Organic waste in these sites decomposes to form methane and carbon dioxide. The LIFE RE Mida project is testing microbial methane oxidation in a Mediterranean climate for the first time. It has installed biofiltration systems at two landfill sites in Italy. The active biofilter in Arezzo has an average oxidation efficiency of 65-70%, explains project manager, Isabella Pecorini. “In Siena, the passive filtration system (biowindows) shows a higher oxidation efficiency of up to 90% of the methane load.” More than 2 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents have been avoided to date.
The results of four monitoring campaigns show that the project is also making a positive contribution to air quality by mitigating the release of non-methane volatile organic compounds by more than 90% on average, as well as reducing odour pollution associated with hydrogen sulphide. “We are working closing with the regional government of Tuscany. At the end of the project we will publish guidelines for the design, construction, operation, monitoring and maintenance of the biofiltration systems,” explains Ms Pecorini. These will be used to update legislation on residual landfill gas management.
Our fondness for coffee is causing a waste headache. The capsules used in popular coffee machines are made of a composite of plastics and aluminium. This means they cannot be recycled and some 120 000 tonnes go to landfill in the EU every year. An answer is at hand in the form of coffee machine capsules made from the bioplastic, polylactic acid (PLA). The LIFE-PLA4COFFEE project has shown that its compostable and biodegradable capsules can be produced cost effectively on a near-industrial scale. Now the beneficiary Aroma System and its partners are reaching out to the coffee brewing sector and potential users to bring them to market.
A pair of LIFE projects at ECOMONDO will be demonstrating how industrial waste can become a resource in a circular economy. More than 90% of expanded polystyrene foam used in thermal insulation for building materials is burned or landfilled. LIFE PS-LOOP is building a recycling plant at Terneuzen in the Netherlands that can process 3 000 tonnes per year of this material, saving some 12 000 tonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions. The project is also developing a standard collection and pre-treatment system for waste collection companies, as well as recommendations for legislation on the import and export of flame-retardant expanded polystyrene in the EU.
Paper mills that use recycled paper as a raw material find that it often contains impurities such as metals and plastics. Most of this unwanted material ends up in landfills or incinerators. LIFE ECO-PULPLAST has shown that it could be possible to reduce wastage to zero by making pallets conforming to the Euro standard out of 50% pulper waste. A pilot line has been built and project beneficiary SELENE has drafted a business plan for producing 1.2 million pallets per year, using 75 000 tonnes of pulper waste from the Lucca area. This part of Tuscany is the hub of European tissue paper manufacturing and converting. This means there is a ready-made market for the waste-based pallets and an ideal opportunity to create a thriving local circular economy. Guidelines for making the new pallets give companies in other paper manufacturing locations the chance to follow suit.
Economies of scale have tended to limit car-sharing schemes to larger cities until now. I-SharE LIFE is a brand new project tailoring electric car-sharing services to cities of less than 120 000 inhabitants. Four small cities in Italy, as well as Osijek in Croatia, are taking part in this innovative project which will help cut greenhouse gas emissions, noise and harmful pollutants from road transport.
Reducing road noise is the main goal of LIFE-SOUNDLESS. Using recycled rubber, plastic and nylon fibre from industry, it has created test surfaces that has been installed on two roads in the province of Seville in Spain. First results show that these have cut noise levels by around 3 dBA in comparison with reference asphalt surfaces. The greatest noise reduction was from a road surface that included 1% recycled plastic, while the quietest surface included 1.5% powdered scrap tyres in the mix.
When the tests are completed, the project team will draft recommendations for implementing European specifications for noise-reducing surfaces in road construction.
To find out more about the participating LIFE projects, visit the European Commission stand in Hall Sud at ECOMONDO.
4 October 2018 The EU is committed to halving the amount of food waste per capita in Europe in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Food savings are required across the chain, from reducing production losses to reducing the amount of food that is thrown away. Globally, around a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, and thus the potential for savings is vast.
LIFE projects have been instrumental in showing where those savings can be made, and several key projects will be featured at the LIFE Food Waste platform meeting in Budapest next week. The Italian FISH SCALE project, for example, focused on waste in the fishing industry. The Italian government has estimated that up to one in four of the fish caught are discarded dead into the sea as unwanted by-catch even though often the species caught are perfectly edible.
The project thus sought to improve the appeal of these little-known species, running a campaign to promote the purchase of certain under-exploited fish species. Such a move also helps alleviate the pressure on populations of more exploited species, and given that sustainable fish are generally cheaper, the consumer benefits too.
At the other end of the food production process, several projects have targeted consumer waste, including the UK project, LIFE TriFOCAL London. Its campaign aims to reach 90% of the population of the eight London boroughs where it is being rolled out: the total number of people reached will amount to more than 1.7 million. The message to prevent food waste by making changes to your meal plans and preparation, and shopping and storage habits is being promoted at business events, school workshops and community training sessions. The project is also promoting the recycling of unavoidable food waste and sustainable consumption through changes to purchasing and preparation practices.
“We're really pleased at how well the campaign has been going with householders, and how much engagement we've had with the London boroughs. There have been five boroughs involved so far, and each one has created really localised campaigns for their residents, involving local people and organisations to reach as wide an audience as possible,” says Katharine Fox, project manager with the beneficiary, WRAP.
She adds that the project’s digital campaign is also enjoying great success. “Social media is often the best way to reach our audience of 18 to 34 year-olds, and we're putting more effort into this element of the project now that we've seen how well it works.”
With these actions, the project is helping implement the EU roadmap to resource efficient Europe which calls for "…incentives for healthier ... consumption of food and to halve the disposal of edible food waste in the EU by 2020." The circular economy package also highlights the need to clarify relevant EU legislation to facilitate food donation and the use of former foodstuffs and by-products from the food chain in feed production without compromising safety.
The Portuguese project FLAW4LIFE is another good example of a successful initiative to tackle unnecessary food waste – specifically, fruit and vegetables considered too unattractive for sale. The aim is to bring to market all quality produce regardless of size, colour and shape, and to replicate its 'Ugly Fruit' co-operative approach nationally. This requires generating demand among consumers for local produce independent of its appearance, the building of relationships with farmers and the establishment of a team of volunteers for transporting produce to the delivery points.
“People have to sign up and become members of the co-op, and then once a week they pick up their box from a fixed delivery point,” explains Isabel Soares, project leader. “Currently, Fruta Feia has 11 delivery points, around 4 900 consumers, works with 170 producers and saves around 15 tonnes of waste every week.”
The platform meeting is being hosted by the National Food Chain Safety Office Hungary, the beneficiary of the project LIFE-FOODWASTEPREV. It will be sharing its experiences of reducing food waste in Hungary as part of its efforts to network with other countries to learn from their prevention campaigns.
2 October 2018 Energy-intensive industries are responsible for a large share of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. This means they have a key role to play in implementing the EU’s roadmap to decarbonisation. From the steel-manufacturing industry to the glass and cement sectors, EU funding has supported technological innovations that offer competitive advantages, while reducing energy consumption and related emissions.
Many of these innovations are being co-funded by the LIFE programme and more than 20 LIFE and Horizon 2020 projects gathered in Utrecht last week to exchange good practice and provide recommendations to policymakers in the sector.
Participants at the LIFE platform meeting highlighted the need for clear direction on how to meet Europe’s ambitious climate change goals in response to the UN’s Paris Agreement. They also emphasised the long-term nature of investments in decarbonising technologies: decisions taken today will affect the industrial landscape for decades to come. They therefore claimed that the risks related to these long-term investments cannot be addressed by the industrial sector alone and should be supported by national governments and European institutions.
The meeting was hosted by LIFE OPTIMELT, a project that is pioneering a waste heat recovery system to address emissions in the glass sector. Preliminary results from its industrial-scale demonstration furnace indicate a 13% reduction in energy use and CO2 emissions compared to the current best available technologies for oxy-fuel combustion furnaces.
The technology has been installed at the Libbey glass factory in the Dutch town of Leerdam and has attracted interest from Brazil, Japan and the US, as well as Europe. “If no one takes a step forward and is willing to share best practices…then nothing will change. If we make this a success, which it looks like being, we will have a certain advantage,” says project leader Marco van Valburg. Further improvements in performance are expected as the process is optimised.
LIFE funding has supported other developments in oxy-fuel furnaces, notably in Bulgaria with the project LIFE Eco-HeatOx and its two follow-ups, LIFE CleanOX and LIFE SmartOxyboost. These demonstrate the potential for heat recovery in oxy-fuel furnaces, particularly for small and medium-sized glass producers, reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and investment costs.
Tunç Görüney of Şişecam Group, the company running the Bulgarian projects, explains that waste heat recovery is one step on a step-by-step path to decarbonisation. The long-term goal is electrification of glass furnaces in connection to an electric grid fed by renewable energy sources. However, there are still barriers to overcome: “I don’t see that glassmakers will have a huge interest in investing in electrical melting until an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) comes up with a viable solution or power prices come down,” he explains. “However, ‘transitional’ melting technologies such as increased share of electrical boosting, hybrid melting, oxy-fuel and waste heat recovery will give support,” says Dr Görüney.
The French project SOLID LIFE has focused on producing low-emission cement and concrete products on an industrial scale, achieving a reduction of up to 70% in concrete’s carbon footprint. “We use less fuel, but we also use less limestone as a raw material,” explains project leader Vincent Meyer of the LafargeHolcim Centre de Recherche. Carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 30 % at the cement plant and the final concrete products offer advantages in terms of 'just in time' delivery, appearance and waste.
Working groups at the platform meeting made recommendations on how to help energy-intensive industries achieve climate policy goals. These include:
Developments in energy and resource efficiency are mainly driven by cost. Full electrification of glass and ceramic furnaces is not suitable according to several participants, but efforts can be made to ensure that the fuels used are renewable. For both processes, however, it is vital to ensure continuity of the power supply and both sectors are open to hybrid solutions using electrical power and fuels combined in a smart way.
Presentations from the platform meeting are available here. A detailed final report will be online soon.