Circular Economy Research and Development Network for Sustainable Food Supply Chain

Circular Economy Research and Development Network for Sustainable Food Supply Chain

Project Overview

Through funding awarded by the Academy of Medical Sciences (grant number GCRFNGR3\1211), Prof Benny Tjahjono, Dr David Bek and Jordon Lazell and Universitas Indonesia (Dr Cindy Priadi), together with academics working in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor Leste to explored various innovative ways of tackling food losses and waste by adopting the Circular Economy (CE). This project aimed to maximise food circulation from production to consumption and optimise the value of food across the supply chain.

Food security and sufficient access to food remains a prominent issue in the developing countries, but ironically at the same time food loss and food waste are also a chronic problem. Urban areas in the rapidly developing global south are a particular hotspot for food waste. Such areas face the challenge of ensuring that the food waste hierarchy is followed correctly. This also means prioritising food waste prevention over waste processing and recovery.

The main finding of this project illustrates how a transition to the CE is a key part of the future development of the Low and Medium-Income Countries (LMIC), including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor Leste. From four key strands of work, knowledge has been gained on this transition. Insight are provided into the overarching topics of the transition to the CE, prompting further debates on how the CE can be best achieved, how it can be measured, the role of different actors and clarity over potential opportunities for countries in the global south.

The project featured four strands of materials:

  • A workshop on the ‘Potential for Circular Economy Entrepreneurship in Indonesia’
  • Hosting a workshop as part of the program of the 3rd Indonesian Circular Economy Forum - ‘Circular Economy Research and Development Network for Sustainable Food Supply chain’
  • A follow up seminar on a creating a roadmap to achieve a CE - ‘Applications of Circular Economy in Tackling Food Waste and Losses in Indonesia’
  • The findings from an empirical investigation into waste and losses in the upstream of the food supply chain in Indonesia

The knowledge generated in this project extends from identifying how and what the CE looks like in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Timor Leste, to what is required for a successful transition, the types of support needed by different actors, challenges and the identification of opportunities and further collaborations required.

The project revealed novel insight across three themes:

  • Indonesia is undertaking a pioneering process of implementing CE as a global south country. A key contribution to knowledge is made to how this process is unfolding, for example, the different modes of encouraging uptake of the CE and the national promotion through forum-type events. The project offered insight into how Indonesia is setting a precedent for other countries in the global south to implement the CE including key information on what the building blocks of the CE look like and the key factors needed in order for the CE to succeed.
  • The CE presents a significant contribution to individuals, communities, businesses, civil society, institutions and generally to LMIC. The CE also offers a pathway for advancement in LMIC, notably a means to meet their Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. The knowledge offered is on the extent to which the CE can offer societal progression and benefits to the wider society.
  • The food sector in Indonesia is a good case study for deciphering the application and possibilities of the CE. It is estimated that 60% of waste in Indonesia is made up of organic materials, thus the project provides new knowledge on how the problems of food losses and waste can be addressed through the adoption CE principles, to ‘close the loop’ of the food supply chain.

The project supports the mission of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), i.e. to address challenges faced by the LMIC and demonstrates the UK research/innovation capabilities via knowledge transfer from the UK to Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Timor Leste. This project is also closely aligned to the fulfilment of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals 11 and 12 as well as the food waste hierarchy (EU Waste Framework Directive 2006/12/EC) which advocates prevention of food waste over recycling and recovery. 

Further Details

Further details are available from Professor Benny Tjahjono in the Centre for Business in Society.