Accelerating the transition towards circularity
An impoverishment of natural resources in the past few decades has shown that the traditional and linear “make-take-dispose” system is no longer appropriate . The F&B sector must shift to a circular economy model to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, generate new business opportunities, and have a positive impact on gross domestic product (GDP). Circularity aims to promote systems in which the waste produced across the supply chain is minimized and the life cycle of materials is extended through value retention in both biological and technical loops. Circular systems hold the potential to regenerate themselves thereby reducing the extraction and use of natural resources and decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and intensive primary material consumption.
A circular economy requires adopting a system solution framework that works in a synergistic and coordinated manner among actors that contribute to value creation at different levels. The reintroduction of materials and goods to the cycle represents a pivotal operation to give value to waste and by-products. In fact, dealing with reverse logistics is necessary in order to retain the value of products in their value chain. Furthermore, an industrial symbiosis strategy can improve resource efficiency and eco-innovation competencies thanks to cross-pollination.
This research area addresses and applies the 5R strategy – recycle, reuse, reduce, refuse, rethink - to embed circularity into products and systems by using newly available digital technologies. This achieves the twin aims of green & digital transition and looks to go beyond current and future regulatory frameworks. Our ambition is to step up with novel digital solutions to improve transparency through data sharing with, and accessibility for, all the stakeholders, supported by standardized protocols validating and certifying the system’s circularity. The increased circular use of business assets needs to be implemented by a thorough evaluation of the economic, social, and environmental impacts in the entire product life cycle to address concrete improvements to companies' sustainability.