Wasteless, EU research project on circular economy and blockchain
By: Dario Dongo – Andrea Adelmo Della Penna 05/09/2022
From: GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade)
‘WASTELESS’, the EU research project that will develop new instruments for measuring the performance of the circular economy, is at the starting line, thanks to blockchain by Wiise Chain. (1)
The perspective is to encourage the virtuous reuse of waste (upcycling) and reduce food waste – food loss e food waste (2) – at all stages of the agri-food chain.
WASTELESS – ‘Waste Quantification Solutions to Limit Environmental Stress‘- is the research and innovation project, developed with the strategic contribution of the writer (Wiise benefits) and successfully presented by the consortium of the same name.
The project answers the call, in the multi-year program of Horizon Europe (2021-2027), on ‘Research and innovation for food losses and waste prevention and reduction through harmonized measurement and monitoring‘. (3)
The goals by Wasteless are:
- develop a unitary system based on technology blockchain, where each organization of the agri-food chain can record the material flows (main and secondary),
- allow measurement and monitoring of food losses and wastes (FLW), by individual organizations as well as public and research bodies,
- promote the reduction of food waste thanks to the evidence of alternative and advantageous solutions, for individuals and society.
2.1) Big Data
The availability of Big Data is the premise for setting up public and private strategies consistent with the objectives. Wasteless proposes a ‘bottom up’ approach, from small data to Big Data, structured as follows:
- definition of uniform methods and tools for both data collection and qualitative analyses of the data collected,
- testing of the tools adopted for data collection from the operators of the supply chain, from farm to fork,
- assessment of the suitability of the tools, their quality and interoperability in other public and private contexts,
- recommendations to policy and organizations on how to integrate data collection (food loss, food waste).
Organisations will be able to register their material flows in the Wasteless system for:
- measure its circular economy performance, in relation to the various steps of the Lansink scale,
- verify the consistency of the data collected on Wasteless, thanks to technology blockchain and benchmarking available,
- tap into a ‘toolbox’ where the operators of the various supply chains share experiences of upcycling, (4) reuse and recycling of various materials.
The blockchain is the most impactful technology in the Wasteless project since it is one open innovation. That is to say that all operators of the agri-food chain in the EU will be able to interact with this tool to:
- measure their FLW (food loss, food waste),
- identify areas for improvement and alternative solutions (eg. side streams to be optimized from a perspective of upcycling),
- share opportunities with upstream and downstream operators,
- offer transparency within the supply chain, with options for audit and digital certifications,
- enhance their commitments in an ESG logic, (5)
- prepare for possible tax and / or social security benefits.
4) Other technologies for supply chain operators
Other technologies will be tested and included in the toolbox especially at the service of retail operators:
- AI system for the prevention of food waste at the distribution level (predictive model of demand and price variation, recommendations of matching), in connection with the system blockchain by Wasteless,
- software identification of food waste, to be adopted in the points of sale. An opportunity to update waste reduction strategies and optimize the enhancement of materials for other uses (food and non-food).
5) Tools for consumers
Some technologies will then be made available to consumers, with the dual function of:
- allowing the collection of data relating to household food waste, including for research purposes,
- stimulate consumers’ attention both on the extent and costs of food waste, and on how to avoid it. (6)
The software identification of domestic food waste will allow to identify quantities and characteristics of food discarded through uploading photographs. A waste prevention system will then be tested through colour variation signals of rapidly perishable foods in refrigerators.
6) Case studies
The tools and methods will be applied on an experimental basis – adequately, thanks to feedback received, in view of their validation – on a wide series of case studies. In order to consider:
- the operational and management needs of farmers and breeders, processing companies, logistics and transport, distribution and administration of food and beverages,
- companies from various supply chains, sizes and territories in 8 European countries. Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Turkey, Slovenia, Estonia.
The strategies of Lean management are always useful for optimizing flow management and the WASTELESS system will offer operational support for their application. The extra tool we hope to offer – in this, as in other EU research projects, which should always be inspired by open innovation and sharing economy – is the scenario of solutions available to improve processes in a logic of sustainable development.
The upcycling can allow the virtuous reuse of waste from each sector and supply chain. Including those of fishing and fish processing, as seen in the #EcoeFISHent project in which Wiise also participates. (7) The operational solutions to be developed therefore include the recovery of valuable bio-active molecules (eg. polyphenols, volatile compounds) with green technologies that help to maintain costs and optimize yields.
The substances extracted are often destined for waste or recycling that can be used – depending on the case – as ingredients of functional foods, food additives, medicines or cosmetics rather than being used to produce feed, fertilizers and the packaging sustainable food.
A synergy has already been planned between WASTELESS and the REFRESH projects (Resource Efficient Food and Drink for the Entire Supply Chain). With the aim of introducing new functionalities in the FoodWasteExplorer system (8), which already provides information on nutrients, bioactive substances and contaminants of different foods.
9) Provisional conclusions
WASTELESS got almost top marks from the evaluators of the European Commission. This is an honour for those who have contributed to the project but also a responsibility that will find satisfaction only thanks to the active contribution of the operators who will participate in it.
Further updates coming soon and invitations to optimize the management of material flows from farm to fork and promote a paradigm shift in the choices and habits of producers, retailers and consumers. To be registered in a WASTELESS system where greenwashing is not allowed.
Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna
Cover image by Lauren Manning. Wasteless Raises $ 400k Seed for ‘Internet of Groceries’ Technology. Ag Funder Network. 20.4.17
(1) Dario Dongo, Gianluca Mascellino. Wiise Chain, the real Made in Italy blockchain at competitive costs. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.9.19
(2) Dario Dongo, Marta Strinati. Food waste, understanding and acting. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.11.20
(4) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Upcycling, the improved reuse in the agri-food chain. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.10.21
(5) Dario Dongo. Sustainability report, ESG and due diligence. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.7.22
(6) Martha Strinati. Ready-made soups against food waste. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.8.22
(7) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. EcoeFISHent, upcycling and blue economy in the fish supply chain. The EU research project. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.10.21
(8) Food waste explorer. REFRESH research project