Bread and its role in the Circular Economy

Many people will have heard the term “circular economy” being used recently. But what does that mean exactly? We are used to the habit of “Make, Use and Dispose” for nearly everything - food, appliances, clothing, you name it. We realise now though that this is wasteful, costly and unsustainable. In other words, we can’t keep doing it or else we will run out of resources, we will fill up landfills and we will have a negative impact on our environment, the places we live.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency “In the circular economy system, we use less raw material, we design products for long-life and recyclability, we share products, we use them for longer and we reuse and repair things before we recycle or throw them away”.

So if we want our food to be made as part of the circular economy, what has to be done? By us? By food producers?

For start, we don’t want to throw food away. In Ireland, it is estimated that one million tonnes of food waste is generated every year. Every year, one third of all food produced ends up being wasted. We can encourage our food producers to make food more efficiently, reducing impact on the environment, and if possible, to re-use waste or make it into something else. For example, our bread bakers take the waste bread they would otherwise throw away and give it to companies who turn it into petfood and animal feed.

Other examples in the food sector are the spent grains after brewing which are made into healthy snacks.

So how does the consumer get food retailers and food producers to change? Well, pester power is one way, but persuading them that it’s the right thing to do is another. For everyone, preventing waste and reusing things makes financial sense too!

In a previous Blog, we talked about how sustainable production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, among other things. We also talked about how to use up bread if it is slightly stale – freeze it and make it into breadcrumbs later, or crumb it and freeze the breadcrumbs! Toast it, make it into bread and butter pudding – in other words, repurpose your pan and don’t throw it away!

The Ellen McArthur Foundation says that “Changing our food system to one based on the principles of the circular economy is one of the most powerful things we can do to tackle climate change and build biodiversity. We can achieve this and provide healthy nutritious food for all.“

The old adage “one man’s waste is another man’s treasure” comes to mind. It was true then and is true today – we should never have forgotten that!

For more information:

Ibec – SDG Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production:

EIT Food – Transitioning to a circular economy

EIT Food – Circular Food Systems

Ellen McArthur Foundation – Brewing Beer from Surplus Bread:

Ellen McArther Foundation – Food & the Circular Economy Deep Dive:

Food Manufacture:

Bord Bia - Circular Economy: The Future for the Food Industry -

Circular economy in food industry - Rajković, Miloš & Popović Minić, Dušanka & Milinčić, Danijel & Zdravković, Milena. (2020). Circular economy in food industry. Zastita materijala. 61. 229-250. 10.5937/zasmat2003229R6.

Economist Impact - Inside the Circle podcast

Speciality Food Magazine

Image Source: Ellen McArthur Foundation