Smart reverse logistic for food retailers

In  Amsterdam there is a high concentration of supermarkets. Supermarkets produce big quantities of pre-consumer non-contaminated organic waste. They are forced by strict legislation to throw away products according to their expiration date (which often is not indicative of the actual state of the product). Therefore the stream produced is not rotting organic waste but a set of products that until the day before being thrown away, were on the supermarket shelves. In addition, supermarkets receive every day new supplies. Therefore everyday new products comes in and old products goes out in a continuous flux. This create interesting opportunities for reverse logistic scheme fort the collection of organic waste in these activities.

For instance, the Australian Woolworths’ Foodbank collects non-saleable products from stores and send them back to their major distribution centres in trucks that would otherwise be travelling empty. The products are then rescued by the foodbank. The program involve more than 700 stores. 

The waste can be collected in central depot, ideally close to the distribution centres where suppliers have to go back, and in these depots the collected material is sorted in waste, which have to be processed and still edible food which can be rescued by the foodbank and food rescuing organisation (Taste before you waste, Instock, Robin Food etc.)


Comments (2)

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How can this be improved?
Laura Scherer
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  • What has to be considered when talking about organic wastes from supermarkets is that many of the products are packaged in plastic foil or nets. This means that they are not “contaminated” from a hygienic perspective, but it’s not an entirely organic waste stream. So in the distribution centers, the wastes could be unwrapped before being sent to a biogas plant.
    Besides, wouldn’t it be better if the food banks collected directly at the store instead of the distribution centers? Because the food banks are decentralized too and then time and further transports could be saved.

    Ludovica Viva
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  • Hi Laura! I propose central collection points because this idea is based on the principle of reverse logistic. This imply that the same vehicle which brings new supply to the supermarket instead of going back empty can carry supermarket waste to these collection points (end point), located strategically close to the distribution centers (starting points). In this way transportation is optimized and a significant amount of still edible food is collected in the same location. The term centralized depots however does not mean that there is only one collection point but several in the whole city each collecting the food from the surrounding food retailers. In this way, food rescue organisations would have access to much more food and with just one travel compared to the current situation in which the organisation themselves need to go independently to each food retailer. Therefore, also more food would be rescued and less would be wasted. About the food that is not edible anymore and is sent to treatment, yes it has to be unwrapped. In this way, the management of these depots would also create job opportunity.