OPINION: How upcycling food waste or surplus to animal feed can bring down the carbon footprint of the food sector

OPINION: How upcycling food waste or surplus to animal feed can bring down the carbon footprint of the food sector
Today, wasted food accounts for roughly 8% of the world’s total carbon emissions, while food production itself contributes 37% to global emissions. Although carbon emissions happen despite the wastage, unoptimised food production and wastage are clearly not just an economic concern anymore.
They are humanitarian and environmental problems as they indirectly contribute to 1/3 of global warming.
Our food consumption is a linear process, which means we have little to no scope for recycling or upcycling waste and/or surplus produce. Since our food is the single largest contributor to global warming, solving this is critical and urgent.

Waste to value

We need to focus on finding an upcycling solution for food waste that solves the immediate problem and helps food companies realise their economic value. Converting food waste to animal feed is one such innovative solution. India's animal feed industry is massive and poised to grow at a CAGR of 9.6% in the next five years.
Naturally, feed production has a carbon footprint of its own. Upcycling food surplus and waste to produce high-quality animal feed allows us to create a wholesome product for this industry while reducing the industry’s carbon emissions. Of course, converting waste food also allows us to neutralise emissions caused by disposing of food waste in landfills and incinerators.

Co-benefits of solving big waste

Addressing the gigantic concern of food waste requires setting up a supply chain to ensure optimised pickup of food surplus and rejects. A shorter shelf-life means the pickups need to be timely. This required a thorough process of verification of surplus and rejects at an SKU (stock keeping unit) level. Therefore, the solutions can also create immense job opportunities.
Even the audit process not only helps us verify the food but indirectly helps companies identify shortcomings in their supply chains. Companies can accordingly optimise their operations to ensure less food surplus and waste.

How tech can help


To simplify the above process, comprehensive data analytic platforms can help companies self-analyze and understand their supply chain. Nowadays, many ML-enabled platforms help understand the compounding data on waste to get a clearer picture of where, how, and why waste occurs.
In effect, these platforms are helping food companies to keep tabs on their food surplus through granular data across their categories and geographies. This significantly improves their supply chain process and reduces surplus and rejections.
By recycling food waste, we can mitigate carbon emissions that would otherwise be caused by dumping the waste in landfills and incinerators. Recycling existing food to produce animal feed also helps reduce emissions otherwise caused by growing more food for the cattle, as food production itself is a carbon emitter process.
The solutions are beneficial to -
  • Prevent tons of GHG emissions
  • Process tons of food waste
  • Save water
  • Provide nutritious feed to animals
  • Create jobs
  • Optimise multiple resources
A comprehensive approach to upcycle animal feed can offset carbon emissions caused by food waste disposal and traditional animal feed production.
Saket Dave is the CEO at Wastelink
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author/interviewee do not necessarily reflect the views of Business Insider India. The article has been partly edited for length and clarity.
OPINION: How upcycling food waste or surplus to animal feed can bring down the carbon footprint of the food sector
Representational image (SL SHANTH KUMAR / BCCL, Mumbai)

This column is part of June 2022’s month-long awareness campaign on the theme “ Only One Earth: Sustaining People, Planet and Prosperity ” by Business Insider India’s Sustainability Insider .