How Can We Clean Up The Cold Transport Supply Chain?

Boosting cold transport supply chain sustainability

The first ever ‘clean cold’ conference aims to find innovative solutions to improve the sustainability of refrigerated transport in the supply chain.

In today’s global market, cold storage facilities and refrigerated transport are vital for transporting food around the world as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that it reaches the end customer in the best possible condition.

Those operating in or relying on the cold transport industry face some key challenges, most notably dealing with variances in temperature; a temperature difference of just a few degrees during transportation can impact significantly on food quality, potentially leading to large scale losses, so ensuring proper storage and handling throughout the supply chain is critical.

As well as these more traditional challenges, companies in the food business are also increasingly having to consider the environmental impact of their cold transport supply chain.

Environmental challenges

The environmental challenges posed by the cold transport supply chain are twofold. The first of these is food waste. With an estimated 50% of food being wasted between farm and fork, food waste is a huge global challenge. Around 200 tonnes of this wasted food is thought to be lost due to cooling limitations in the supply chain; this loss is equivalent to almost twice the land area of Australia and contributes more than three billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The second, but just as pressing, threat is the carbon emissions generated by the refrigerated transport itself, with experts predicting that reliance on artificial cooling could be responsible for around 13% of the world’s CO2 emissions by 2030 – a figure that is likely to cause significant logistical and political challenges.

With temperature controlled transport so crucial to the international food trade, and with climate change an ever-growing concern, it’s vital for the industry that these issues are addressed and resolved.

Greener solutions

Finding solutions to these problems is the focus of the first global ‘clean-cold’ congress, which will be held in April at the University of Birmingham. With over 100 predicted attendees from across the energy efficiency, cooling and political sectors, this two day event aims to address the key challenges posed by the changing nature of artificial cooling demand across the globe.

Experts and decision makers in this field will explore how the industry can tackle post-harvest food loss, as well as investigating how the cold transport supply chain can benefit from more sustainable approaches. As well as discussing the challenges, the event will also act as a forum to examine potential opportunities and greener solutions, looking to both existing and future projects for inspiration. In particular, organisers will be hoping to hear about clean cooling initiatives, and will be expecting attendees to work together and share examples of best practice in order to come up with creative answers to the challenges of sustainable cooling.

Pawanexh Kohli, a keynote speaker at the conference and Chief Executive of the National Centre for Cold-chain Development in India, emphasised the importance of cold transport, and the need for joint working and new ideas.

“Refrigerated logistics is critical to managing our food resources, expanding market frontiers and reducing food loss.

At the same time, we also need to reduce the impact of our logistics on our environment, and that requires international collaboration.

We need innovation today, to develop the sustainable cold chain of tomorrow.”