Sustainability of food supply chains – mapping food waste and by-product synergies

Luciano Batista, Sylvia Saes, Nuno Fouto

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Purpose: This conceptual paper introduces the theoretical and methodological basis of an analytical framework conceived with the purpose of bringing industrial ecology perspectives into the core of the underlying disciplines supporting studies concerned with environmental sustainability aspects beyond product life cycle boundaries in a supply chain. Research Approach: To develop the framework, we draw from a previous LCA-driven methodological approach applied to investigate industrial activities with the purpose of defining industrial ecology strategies for the development of ‘eco-industrial clusters’. We expand on this approach by combining it with the waste model for the food sector to classify the inventory of food waste and by-products generated in different stages of a food supply chain. Finally, food waste and by-product flows are considered with basis on the European waste hierarchy model and core industrial symbiosis concepts. These flows depict two time-related scenarios: 1. Present scenarios showing the status quo of current waste and by-product flows, and 2. Future scenarios pointing out potential food waste and by-product synergies along the supply chain. Findings and Originality: Different ecosystems scenarios are expected to emerge from the analysis applied in different industrial stages of a food supply chain: Farming, manufacturing, and retailing. The scenarios are the main outcomes of the analysis process and they ultimately describe potential food waste and by-product synergies not only within and between core industrial activities of the supply chain being studied, but also potential industrial linkages with organisations outside the supply chain that are nonetheless located in areas adjacent to the core industries in the supply chain being analyzed. Research Impact: By bringing industrial ecology perspectives into the analytical framework developed, the paper provides a valuable and innovative contribution to the wider debate on how supply chains meet the challenges of sustainability. Given the pressing challenges faced by the food sector, the framework focuses upon waste minimization through industrial linkages in food supply chains. The combination of industrial ecology practice with basic LCA elements, the waste hierarchy model, and the spatial scale of industrial symbiosis allows the standardization of qualitative analyses and associated outcomes. Such standardization enables comparative analysis not only between different stages of a supply chain, but also between different supply chains. Practical Impact: The analytical approach proposed contributes more coherently to the wider circular economy aspiration of optimizing the flow of goods to get the most out of raw materials and cuts wastes to a minimum. The transition to a circular economy based upon circular design and production, new circular business models involving reverse cycles and cascading of products, by-products and waste, as well as cross-cycle and cross-sector collaborations beyond traditional supply chain boundaries, requires a refreshed understanding of more current circular supply chain archetypes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2015
EventWorkshop - Cambridge Veterinary School
Duration: 25 Jan 2016 → …


Period25/01/16 → …


Cite this

Batista, L., Saes, S., & Fouto, N. (2015). Sustainability of food supply chains – mapping food waste and by-product synergies. Paper presented at Workshop, .