Circular Economy, together with Carbon Neutrality, represents an opportunity to implement and win the challenges of the ecological transition. The meaning of “circular economy” is based on the concept that the planet has limited resources while the population is in constant growth. It is necessary to follow a more sustainable way of life, encouraging lifestyles and production and development models considering the limits of our planet. Companies, institutions and consumers must play their part in restoring a balance between raw materials and energy consumption, biodiversity protection and waste management to invert the course of global warming and maintain good environmental conditions.
A Circular Economy means undertaking a significant change of behaviours, lifestyles, consumption, and production processes that currently are not sustainable for waste of energy or the excessive amount of waste and converting them into more efficient systems. So, we must first identify all the inputs, like raw materials and resources, and all the outputs, like waste and emissions. Then to create self-sufficient models, where the output return input, the waste turns into a resource, in a closed circle, without losses and waste.
This circular approach allows recovery and a significant reduction of waste, transformed into new raw materials for the company or other production chains. In food production, this approach has long been widespread. For example, animal husbandry waste, such as manure and sewage, become fertilisers for growing fodder, horticultural species or orchards. On the contrary, crop waste can become animal feed. Agricultural by-products, such as beer thresh, potatoes, straw, vegetable processing waste, extraction flours, vegetable oils, molasses, etc., are widely used by the feed industry. They can represent up to 50% of the total ratio, satisfying the nutritional needs of animals, improving the conversion index and being a valid contribution to reducing the environmental impact.
The feed industry is strategic for the sustainability of the agri-food sector, able to influence the efficiency of livestock production. A classic example is used in animal feed of wheat bran that comes from flour processing in mills. In this case, we move from food for humans to animal feed, reducing food waste, using common raw materials, CO2 emissions, and environmental impact. For example, from processing bread, pasta, snacks, and biscuits, you can obtain useful raw materials to be included as ingredients in feed formulas, increasing the ration’s digestibility and energy.
Even the animal itself is a striking example of Circular Economy because in animal production, nothing is wasted. Not only are meat, milk, or eggs obtained from animals, but the slaughtering industry also generates leather and a wide variety of by-products recycled for further processing. For example, animal tissues are used to prepare heart valves and medical devices, fat in the cosmetic industry, abomasum for natural rennet, feathers in the textile industry, while bones are used in pet food or to produce jellies food or pharmaceutical use.
Livestock production chains are firmly integrated with many other economic systems, both at the level of farms for primary production and industrial processing. There are many challenges and endless opportunities in this area, mainly thanks to technological progress. Just think of the possibility of recovering proteins and nutrients for human nutrition from the by-products of slaughter, or the energy enhancement, transforming fats, excreta and rumen content into biogas, clean and renewable energy.
Also, in aquaculture, innovative projects replace oil and fishmeal with alternative products that guarantee the same nutritional profile of traditional feed. These alternatives derive from the enhancement of co-products of the food industry and are rightly part of the Circular Economy to improve the sustainability of production systems.
There are many examples of sustainable approaches to food, some even very creative and virtuous, which show how what we consider waste can have a new life in the name of efficiency and environmental sustainability.