5 keys to circular food design

Purpose of the model circular food design It is an optimized definition of food products so that they stay in the chain as long as possible. The goal is to reduce food waste and use all natural resources.

The European Union has identified some models by which circular economy actions can be framed. One of these models refers to the circular design of the product, the materials used, as well as their origin.

5 keys to circular food design

1. Design with more sustainable raw materials and ingredients

One of the most effective ways to achieve an improved ecological footprint in final products is to:

  • choose raw materials
  • ingredients with a reduced footprint on the environment

More environmentally friendly sources that use fewer natural resources. In many food products, raw materials usually make up a larger percentage of their ecological footprint.

Plant sources are usually less effective than animal sources and are used in many meat or other animal analogues. There are also ingredients obtained by “upcycling”, which are created by using by-products after the drying, extraction and purification processes, among others.

In addition, we must remember that the use of alternative proteins from non-conventional sources such as insects, algae, fungi, etc. for food or animal feed is also an upward trend.

2. Design for longer life

For him circular food design, reduce food waste by optimizing formulation and storage, packaging and transport conditions. Always taking into account consumer demand for healthy food with fewer additives and the ecological footprint associated with the products.

A group of researchers developed a biodegradable packaging from corn protein and other natural biopolymers. A mixture of natural antimicrobial oils has been added to the packaging, which extends the shelf life of the product by up to three days compared to using traditional plastic.

Mimica Touch, a temperature-sensitive label that accurately shows whether the product is still fresh or, on the contrary, no longer suitable for consumption, was designed with the aim of reducing waste from packaged food.

3. Eco-design of containers and packaging

From the various substances present in the skins, seeds and pulp of fruits and vegetables, Apeel is able to create a protective coating against moisture and oxygen. Thus, they manage to keep the freshness and nutrition of the product longer, which leads to less food loss.

For their part, Tufts University researchers highlight the potential of silk fibers applied as an edible coating to various fruits to promote their protection and extend their lifespan. Although further progress is needed to overcome certain challenges, these findings are promising.

4. Introduction of new (bio) packaging materials or replacement with secondary/recycled materials

Reduce dependence on fossil sources while valuing by-products or waste that, through biotechnological processesfacilitate the creation of new materials with properties similar to those of synthetic origin.

There is a project to produce flexible packaging from algae. It is a non-competing source with food crops, it does not need water or chemicals. In addition, they are biodegradable solutions (it takes between 4 and 6 weeks, they are compostable and do not interfere with PET recycling).

With the aim of reducing the use of single-use plastics in distribution, reducing food waste and using by-products from the fruit and vegetable sector.

Some companies are collaborating in the development of cellulose-based protective covers. They started with the development of wrappers made from carrot waste, but many others could be used, such as those for apple juice.

You may be interested in: Enviroscore, an ecological label that reveals the sustainability of food

5. Design that facilitates recycling or second life

Advances in mechanical recycling and chemical recycling that make it possible to reduce the pressure of plastic packaging on the environment. Also the use of compostable and biodegradable materials that enable us to achieve the goals of the European Strategy 2030.

An example is a beer company working on a bottle design based on sustainable wood fibers that can be fully recycled. While its current prototypes have an internal barrier, a plastic film made from either recycled PET or 100% bio-based PEF, that retains the beer, the company is working on a plastic-free solution.

Dedicated to protecting the environment, the coffee company has developed compostable and biodegradable coffee capsules in the marine environment. Taking into account the production process, the storage of the product and the operation of the coffee machine.

Coffee capsules are designed on the basis of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), a biopolymer produced by bacteria thanks to fermentation of sugars or lipids. In less than a year, the capsules lose more than 30% of their weight in the process of biodegradation.

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