Carbon dioxide – a tool to cut down on food waste

Use of ingredients with low impact on the climate and innovative packaging solutions are two key factors for reaching more sustainable food and beverage production. Linde’s carbon dioxide not only has less impact on climate – it can also prolong the shelf life of a food product and help cut down on food waste.

Peter Jansson

Food waste has a heavy impact both on the climate and the environment, as well as economic consequences. A third of all food produced globally is either lost or goes to waist, according to the UN`s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Finding solutions for food waste is not only extremely important but obviously also a giant challenge,” says Louise Ungerth, Senior Food Analyst specialised in food waste.

“The world’s population is growing, and we need to use all the food we produce instead of wasting a third of it globally. It’s very important to find innovations to prevent waste, both in production and with consumers.”

“If we don’t manage to handle food waste, we won’t be able to handle the climate and biodiversity challenges. The food waste needs to be halved by 2030, according to United Nations Sustainable Climate Goals,” she continues.

Regardless of where waste occurs in the food chain, innovative solutions are needed. One area where a lot can still be done is within food packaging. Good packaging, which ensures food quality, prolongs the durability of the product as well as improves food safety. 

Finding new ways to a more sustainable future, is not only a big focus of the food and beverage industry, it is also a top priority for today’s conscious consumers. Senior Food Analyst Louise Ungerth believes that preventing climate change needs to go hand in hand with product development and that the future will see more co-operation between small innovative hubs, start-ups and big food companies.

Here are five things Louise Ungerth thinks we will see more of in the near future:

  • Healthy drinks and well-being-food
    “Today’s consumers are very health oriented. We’ll see even more non-alcoholic alternatives to wine and liqueur, sugar free drinks and food that can help us to feel good. There’s research going on about food that can protect the heart, help us perform better and stimulate our cognitive abilities.”
  • Plant-based is here to stay
    “New and improved vegan and vegetarian options will continue to be developed, for example competitors to traditional dairy products. After the major success of vegan milk made from oats comes milk made from protein-rich peas. We will probably also see a bigger variety of vegan cheeses. The urge for more and better plant-based alternatives is not only growing with consumers, but is also a very hot investment area.”
  • Cultivated proteins
    “The talk of sustainable gains in meat, fish and seafood cultured from animal cells has been going on for a while. But are consumers ready?”
  • Clever packaging and food-tech
    “I hope we will see more packaging adapted for smaller and single households –without a higher price per kilo – to help cut down on food waste. Tech and data can also be efficient tools against food waste, for example apps that warn the staff in a food store that a product is getting close to its best-before-date and it can be sold out instead of wasted.”.”
  • Locally produced food
    “Interest in locally produced food was big even before the pandemic and I think this trend will just continue to grow when the country is in an upswing. For example, digital solutions that can connect end-consumers with producer, such as farmers, to cut down on intermediaries.”

The carbon dioxide that Linde offers for food packaging comes from nature’s own cycle, for example from bio-ethanol production based on wheat and recycled bakery products. It can be used for food packaging with Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP).

“Using this gas for food packaging prolongs the shelf life of foodstuff, which in turn helps to cut down on food waste,” says Peter Jansson, Head of Business Segment Food & Beverage, Linde Gas.

The MAP method prevents the growth of microorganisms without using additional preservatives. In solid it´s phased as dry ice, it can also help to protect the foodstuff during transportation and improve the quality of chilled and frozen food.

“The low temperature of below -78°C in solid or liquefied carbon dioxide can, for example, be used to chill or freeze an ingredient really, really quickly, which in turn can cut down on lead times and increase quality from production to delivery,” says Peter Jansson. 

“This technique also safeguards a high quality of a product until it reaches its final destination, for example when it comes to texture and appearance,” he continues, adding that increased shelf life in the distribution chain is another gain.

Linde’s carbon dioxide is captured as a by-product of different industry processes. The gas is used in processes we see every day:

  • In carbonated drinks: improving their lifetime and adding a fresh and sharp taste
  • Chilling of foodstuffs
  • Treatment of drinking water: making it less corrosive
  • In greenhouses: increasing growth rates of vegetables
  • Neutralization of wastewater before it is released into the environment
  • Carbon dioxide as dry ice is a highly efficient and flexible chilling agent: no additional energy is required for keeping goods cool and fresh
  • Shielding gas for welding of steel and in laser cutting processes
  • In industrial food processes for controlling the temperature in ingredient mixers or grinding of minced meat