ZeroW: Systemic Innovations Towards a Zero Food Waste Supply Chain

A third of all food produced globally goes to waste. The EU-funded ZeroW project aims to study different approaches to prevent and reduce food waste and enhance the sustainability of food supply chains. Specifically, ZeroW will carry out the demonstration of diverse innovations in nine living labs, employing a systemic innovation approach to effectively address the multidimensional issue of food waste. Moreover, the project will discuss the scaling up results from the living labs, and combine them with appropriate policies, to bring us closer to the EU’s food waste reduction goals.

The Operations Research and Logistics group at Wageningen University is involved in several parts of the project:

  • The development of a conceptual model for food waste throughout the supply chain, which focuses on identifying what is and is not considered food waste in the European context, which factors drive food waste in different parts of the supply chain, and which interventions can contribute to preventing and reducing food waste. The conceptual model also serves as a common framework for the whole EU project.
  • A living lab which focuses on the role that food banks play in the discussions around food waste, specifically looking to provide decision support for food banks and donating food supply chain actors to better match the supply of donations with the goal to alleviate food insecurity. This includes the development of predictive analytics approaches to forecast supply and demand as well as prescriptive analytics approaches to better manage product flows in food bank supply chains, with the aim to simultaneously decrease food waste and food insecurity.
  • A living lab that is based on the premise that reducing food waste and the environmental burden of our food system begin and end with the choices that consumers make. The objective of this living lab is therefore to develop recipes and menus with low expected food waste, high nutritional scores, and low environmental impacts in the underlying supply chains. Also, together with partners the project aims to develop labels and scores to inform and trigger consumer behavioural change. Furthermore, the goal is to demonstrate the use of macro-scale optimisation models to balance food waste reduction with high nutritional value and food affordability in consumer choices.

Overall, the Operations Research and Logistics group is grateful to have the financial support from the European Union to work on these topics, and to collaborate with the many other European universities, research institutes, and other organizations that also contribute to the ZeroW project with the common goal to address the important issue of food waste reduction.