Towards sustainable production and a circular economy: An extension of 3R practices in the agri-food industry

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Abstract

World is facing increasing economic, environmental and social sustainability challenges, and agri-food businesses play an intrinsic part in it as both, heavy user of natural resources and supplier of resources that satisfy societal needs. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, so-called 3R practices are in the core of efficient and effective use and recovery of resources. The objective of this paper is to investigate the extent of application of 3R practices among food producers and processors, as well as other ‘R’ opportunities agri-food businesses explore or engage with. To achieve this objective, we first explore its extensions in line with sustainable manufacturing and circular economy, i.e. Rethinking, Redesign, Replacement, Repurposing and Recovery of other resources. Next, we investigate 14 cases of agri-food businesses involved in multiple supply chains, and analyse the extent of their application of R practices. Our key findings are: 1) agri-food companies are handling primarily biological flows of materials and products, while there is much less attention paid to technical flows (e.g. auxiliary materials and packaging); 2) there are missed opportunities to engage food producers in reuse practice; 3) there are instances of companies that go beyond the 3Rs by making steps toward sustainable production and circular economy via rethinking their strategies, redesigning products and processes, replacement of elements of traditional food production and processing practices and energy sources, repurposing raw materials and final food products, as well as recovery of resources such as land and water.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the IS4CE2020 Conference of the International Society for the Circular Economy
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jul 2020

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