Food and farming: CE could cut waste and boost efficiency

The food and farming sector is among Britain’s most important, employing more than 3 million people and contributing over £1 billion a year to the economy. It’s under greater pressure than ever to tackle environmental impacts such as intensive use of resources, emissions to water and air, and waste and packaging issues including losses of product and value across the supply chain. Some of these problems might be solved by implementing the principles of the circular economy, says a team of researchers funded by the EPSRC, led by the University of Exeter Business School, and including Oakdene Hollins’ Associate Consultant Dan Eatherley.

Moving away from the linear approach of ‘take - make - dispose’ and towards a system in which ‘waste’ is a valuable resource that can be reused within a business or exchanged with others is gaining popularity as a possible solution to a range of problems. And adopting circular economy principles could generate a net benefit of £1.6 trillion across Europe by 2030.

The UoEBS project focuses on the baking and dairy sectors and will examine opportunities for circular economy methods to eliminate waste and to generate cleaner growth and resilience among SMEs, which have special problems in accessing these opportunities, in Devon and Cornwall.

The research team has already found that adopting an efficiency-based, cost-down approach isn’t always the most effective strategy longer-term. “We believe that businesses can best build their CE capability by working together with other firms, customers and suppliers, within and across supply chains,” say Dan and Professor Mickey Howard in an article for the Western Morning News.[1] "For example," they report, “the new Food and Drink Hub being developed at Bodmin in Cornwall to showcase local produce demonstrates how the collective actions of players from a range of backgrounds will have a far greater impact than firms acting alone.”

Initial findings will be presented and discussed at the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group on September 12th, and on 21st at the South West Business Council’s conference ‘From Farm to Fork; the future of food and drink in the South West’.  

We wish them every success.



Katie Baker