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Major cities and companies join forces for new Ellen MacArthur Foundation Food initiative

June 12, 2019

The pioneering three-year initiative will help create a circular economy for food.

Today at the EAT Forum in Stockholm, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced it will work with a community of participant cities, as well as companies including Danone, Mizkan, Nestlé, Novamont, Veolia, and Yara, to develop circular economy solutions to the problems of today’s food system. In three Flagship Cities – London, New York, and São Paulo – the Foundation will lead major food system projects to demonstrate how a circular economy vision for food can be achieved at scale. It is the first time cities and companies have come together in this way. The three-year initiative is supported by Philanthropic Partner Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Food production is responsible for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and mismanaged fertilisation and manure exacerbate air pollution, contaminate soil and leach into water supplies. These factors, and others associated with today’s food system, mean even when trying to make healthy choices, consumers are at risk.

Dr Clementine Schouteden, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Food initiative lead, said: "By joining forces in this way, cities, and the businesses and people in them, can transform the global food system. We can grow food in ways that support ecosystems instead of damaging them. Food would be sourced locally, when it makes sense, and we would make the most of it, avoiding edible waste and using organic by-products to improve soil health. This is a unique opportunity to create a system which helps to tackle the climate crisis, restore biodiversity, improve human health, and reconnect people with their food, while creating new business opportunities."

As set out in the Foundation's report Cities and Circular Economy for Food, the benefits of this approach include reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by 4.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking one billion cars off the road permanently, and avoiding the degradation of 15 million hectares of arable land per year. It could also lead to significant reductions on antimicrobial resistance, air pollution, water contamination and foodborne diseases. Cities can unlock an opportunity of USD 700 billion by reducing edible food waste and by cycling by-products and organic materials.

Wayne Hubbard, London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) CEO, said: “Being awarded Flagship City status is recognition of everything the Mayor, local councils and LWARB are already doing here to improve food outcomes for all Londoners. By working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to develop this circular economy approach, we will be able to do even more to engage and inspire businesses, consumers and other stakeholders across London to tackle the food challenges we all face.”

Mayor of Sāo Paulo City, Bruno Covas, said: “We are firmly committed to guaranteeing quality food for all São Paulo citizens and boosting sustainable development policies. São Paulo City is convinced the circular economy is a feasible alternative to the waste and pollution of the current food system. We have been working on initiatives to combat food waste, provide fresh and quality food for vulnerable populations, and improve production to market access. We are confident that through this Food initiative, and cooperation with the other Flagship Cities, we will contribute significantly to creating a circular economy for food.”