Adopting the circular economy approach on food loss and waste


Among the current global problems, food loss and waste management have attracted significant attention. In particular, it has resulted in serious environmental, economic and social issues that pose a great threat to the realization of the planet’s sustainability. According to the past research work, up to a third of the total food produced worldwide is lost or wasted along the supply chain comprising of the agricultural production, industrial transformation, and consumption. To this end, development and implementation of effective food loss and waste reduction strategies are highly desirable as it will ensure the realization of global sustainable development goals.

Interestingly, food waste has been highly reported in developed countries as compared to the developing world. This has been attributed to the commitment and contribution of the farmers and food companies in assessing and reducing food losses. For instance, food loss and waste reduction have also proved to be of great benefit to the economic sustainability of a company. Unfortunately, only a few of the published research works are based on the circular economy framework. Additionally, whereas these studies focus majorly on consumer and retail food waste, food loss has not been fully explored.

To this end, Dr. Ludovica Principato (Roma Tre University), Engineer Luca Ruini (Barilla Company) and Matteo Guidi (Last Minute Market) in collaboration with Professor Luca Secondi from the University of Tuscia investigated the food loss and food waste from a circular economy point of view. Their main objective was to quantify the main food loss and waste and their causes along the food supply chain and to determine their recyclability. Their work is currently published in the journal, Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Briefly, the research team conducted a comprehensive analysis of the lifecycle of the Italian pasta supply chain. With the data obtained from the Barilla Company, the pasta losses, waste and causes along the supply chain were analyzed. Furthermore, they demonstrated the ability to reuse the food loss waste occurring along the supply chain for other purposes such as renewable energy production through circular economy approach.

Good circular economy practices will help both the academic field and companies understand the importance of the circular economic sustainable business models as it is the key to sustainable production and consumption. Specifically, the application of a circular economic framework can effectively reduce food loss and waste occurring along the production chain. Using the pasta supply chain as a case study, very limited food losses, less than 2%, in the field was observed. On the other hand, the losses generated during the wheat grinding and pasta production was approximately 2%. The food loss and waste along the production chain could be effectively used for other purposes.

Based on the results, cultivation and consumption phases accounts for the most food loss and waste. Therefore, more efforts through further research are required to ensure a minimal reduction in food loss and waste in these phases. Additionally, the finding confirmed the suitability of the circular economy framework in quantifying, for the first time, the food loss and waste along the pasta supply chain. Therefore, the study will pave the way for analysis and reduction of the food loss and waste in the supply chain of other products which would, in turn, offer a solution to the world’s food crisis.

About the author


Barilla Global Supply Chain – Health & Safety, Environment & Energy Vice President

Luca Ruini as HSE&E Vice President leads the development of a Sustainable Barilla Group Supply Chain process by improving knowledge and culture related to Health & Safety, Fire Prevention & Protection, Environment and Energy.

Luca Ruini is also the BCFN reference for the Sustainable Growth Area due to the competence developed in more than 15 years on Food Supply Chain Sustainability. Many are the BCFN Paper published under his supervision: Water Economy – Climate Change, Agriculture & Food – Sustainable Agriculture – Food Waste; and the BCFN Double Pyramid.

Since 2001 he has been an Industrial Expert at the EU IPPC Food & Drink- Technical Working Group- JRC in Seville.

He has been involved as a mentor to AIDEPI Start Up Weekend on Food (2015 & 2017) and StartUpBootCamp Food Tech (2016).

Luca Ruini was Board Member & Responsible of the Packaging Prevention Activity at Italian Packaging & Packaging Waste Consortium (CONAI) up to 2017.

He is one of the first Members of the Italian Business Continuity Manager .

Graduated at the Alma Mater Studiorum University in Bologna as Electronic Engineer cum laude, he has been working in Barilla since 1992.

About the author


Ludovica Principato is a post-doc researcher at Roma Tre University in the Business Studies Department, where she teaches Corporate Communication and International Business. She holds a Ph.D. in Management with a doctoral thesis on households food waste. Her research interests lay on sustainable food systems management and in particular on food waste and consumer health. With dozens of publications in the field, she has been recognized as one of the top expert and authors on food waste issue. She is a well known speaker concerning all the aspects related to food and sustainability. Since 2011 she has been scientific consultant for Barilla Foundation. She is a contributor for some journals specialized in the food area. Link

About the author


Luca Secondi is an Associate Professor of Economic Statistics at the University of Tuscia (Viterbo), Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-Food and Forest Systems (DIBAF). He obtained his PhD in Applied Statistics at the University of Florence in 2009. He was visiting researcher at the Department of Economics of the American University in Washington DC and the Infometrics Institute (Washington DC), at the Shanxi University in China (Taiyuan) and recently at the Jiangxi University in Nanchang (China).

His research activities have mainly been focused on statistical analysis of demand and consumer behaviour, with specific reference to food waste, measures of subjective well-being, quality of life and households’ living conditions; computable general equilibrium models and simulation of economic policies; analysis of effectiveness and efficiency of universities. [Scopus H-index: 9; citations: 409, updated at November 2019]

ResearchGate , Google scholar  


Principato, L., Ruini, L., Guidi, M., & Secondi, L. (2019). Adopting the circular economy approach on food loss and waste: The case of Italian pasta production. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 144, 82-89.

Go To Resources, Conservation and Recycling

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