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Food waste: It’s rubbish, isn’t it?


The world population is growing constantly. Nearly 7.6 billion people live on Earth and accordingly the need for food is on the rise. Nevertheless, enormous amounts of groceries end up in the trash. Intelligent logistics solutions can help! Every year in the European Union alone, food worth 143 billion euros ends up being thrown away. The causes: The groceries are overripe, spent too much time in transit, were stored incorrectly, have an unfamiliar shape or color, or do not comply with the legislation on hygiene and consumption. Cases like the Cologne pensioner, who recently found himself in court because he retrieved 35 packages of expired coffee from the dumpster of a supermarket, caused quite rightly something of a commotion. An increasing world population will hardly be able to afford this waste in the long term.

Losses in the supply chain


According to the findings of the EU research project FUSIONS on food waste, 14 percent of global food losses are due to incidents during transport. With 88 million tons of food being thrown away in the European Union every year, even the tiniest of improvements can bring significant results. And the route taken from farm to fork is often too long, not least because the consumer also demand a wide choice of seasonal products to be available 365 days a year. Because of this some products are on the road for up to six weeks, whereas sorting out and throwing away is a point on the daily agenda.

Digital solutions for food logistics

Without a coordinated logistics strategy of all stakeholders – from growers to wholesalers and transporters to retailers – nothing will change. “If we want to influence this 14 percent waste in the supply chain, we need smarter capacity management,” says Andreas Lenz, Managing Director DHL Food Logistics. Because many losses are due to unnecessary delays. The reasons for that include traffic obstructions, missing information, seasonal bottlenecks, and poor management of available storage space. In his opinion, a continuous flow of information plays a central role. Lenz: “We need the willingness to treat data on commodity flows not as a business secret, but in a transparent way to benefit the supply chain.”

Blockchain for waste avoidance


New technologies like blockchain can help. A blockchain is a decentralized database structure that records transactions or information flows completely transparently. As one of the first users in the food sector, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba launched the encrypted Food Trust Framework platform to track food delivery. But is tracking alone, i.e. pure location, where the food is at which time, enough? Many start-ups are not content with this and are developing smart trackers with additional functions.

Efficient goods transportation via app

Freshness, temperature, and humidity – these are all parameters that can be measured, in addition to the actual location of the goods. And that ensures more efficient logistics, as these examples show:

  • Walmart’s Eden app calculates the freshness of food on its way to the consumer. For example, early-ripe bananas can be identified and brought to stores as quickly as possible.
  • Florida-based FreshSurety has developed a low-cost disposable sensor that delivers actual values about the merchandise every ten minutes, from collection of the pallet, to removal in the supermarket.
  • ZestLab offers a sensor system that measures environmental data surrounding the delivery and constantly updates it in a Cloud. This allows conclusions to be drawn about the state of the goods.

Sustainable food transportation

If the various participants combine these digital solutions with the expertise of logistics specialists, real progress can be achieved. “Adding just two to three days to food’s shelf life contributes to the reduction of food waste,” says Andreas Lenz. Producers can then reduce production levels and make better use of their agricultural land. “Overall, not only can they cut food waste and resources, they can reduce environmental damage too,” says Lenz. Thus efficient logistics in the food sector can make a significant contribution to a sustainable global economy and reduce the waste of valuable food. This article has been taken over in a shortened form for DHL Freight Connections. The original article can be found in Delivered. The global logistics magazine.

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