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How the circular economy can change the way we consume our food

One of the main issues that we associate with sustainability is the food sector. Whether it’s organic food, separating household waste or using reusable coffee cups – we have been changing many of our habits for some time now. However, ING's Circular Economy Report suggests that consumers and industry can become even better at dealing with food resources and sustainable consumption.

In recent years, the political sphere has already presented and introduced some important framework conditions for a transition from the linear to the circular economy. For example, the member states of the European Union have agreed on the 12th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) established by the United Nations and, by 2030, to reduce the amount of food waste per capita in the EU by half. At the same time, however, industry must also make a contribution: of the world's 50 largest food companies, two thirds have already set sustainability targets in line with the SDGs and more than 40 percent of companies have begun to measure their own food waste.

Consumers prefer more sustainability when it comes to food

Politicians and businesses are responding to consumers' growing desire for a wider range of sustainable foods. In the ING Circular Economy Report, 48 percent of consumers under the age of 34 say that they have already boycotted a food manufacturer because it does not ensure that it complies with environmental standards. In addition to the environmental impact of food, the provenance of food is also becoming increasingly important. 64 percent of consumers say they would rather choose food that is produced locally because it is fresher and therefore of a higher quality.

By international comparison, it is also clear that European consumers are leading the way in recycling packaging waste. 65 percent of European consumers regularly separate their household waste in order to recycle packaging. In the Asia-Pacific region, the corresponding figure is only 36 percent, and in the US around 25 percent. The comparatively strict European legislation on separating and recycling waste therefore appears to have had a lasting impact on the behaviour of consumers and is helping to promote more sustainable ways of living.

Creating transparency, simplifying infrastructure and optimising operations

As good as it all sounds, there is still some catching-up to do in Europe in terms of sustainable consumption habits and handling food resources in a responsible manner. According to our survey, the top three reasons why consumers do not use reusable containers for shopping include poor hygiene, a high price tag, and the fact that they are impractical for shopping.

In future, large food manufacturers and supermarkets could make it easier for consumers to switch to sustainable foodstuffs. Firstly, they need to create more transparency and explain to consumers where their products come from and what environmental impact they have. In addition, companies should simplify access to circular economy models through better infrastructure, such as enabling customers to use reusable containers. Third, industry could use data about waste management, the provenance of foodstuffs and production efficiency to optimise operations and reduce food waste.

In our full Circular Economy Report, you will find information about how Lufa Farms, one of the world's first commercial rooftop greenhouse companies in Montreal, is fulfilling the need for a regional focus, high quality and a convenient shopping experience for its customers.