The picturesque town of San Michele, nestled in Trento, Italy, recently hosted the SISTERS project General Assembly. Held on April 10th and 11th, 2024, this gathering brought together eight European partners dedicated to spearheading sustainable transformation within the food packaging industry. Collaborating at the Fondazione Edmund Mach and the University of Trento, in conjunction with AITIIP Centro Tecnológico, the Assembly served as a platform to highlight significant strides and outline strategic plans for a more sustainable food value chain in the EU.

Since its kick off in November 2021, the SISTERS project has been at the forefront of combating food waste across Europe. With funding from the EU, SISTERS aims to revolutionize the agri-food value chain by developing tailored, innovative solutions to systematically reduce food loss and waste continent-wide.

Here are some key achievements from the past 30 months:

  • Short Chain Platform Advancements: A revamped strategy was devised to enhance the reach and usability of the Short Chain Platform, facilitating the direct sale of fruits and vegetables. Notable technical upgrades were implemented, including a new back-office structure and enhanced database integration.
  • Innovative Container Validation: Validation experiments were conducted on the BulkBox, a smart container designed for the transport and storage of fresh products. Results demonstrated its superiority over standard transportation methods, particularly for spinach and peppers, by minimizing weight loss.
  • Bio-based Packaging Progress: Distribution of bio-based and home-compostable packaging materials commenced, with promising results from food contact and compliance tests. Industrial partners are gearing up for upscaling production.
  • Retailer and Consumer Engagement: Surveys were conducted to gauge retailer sustainable practices and consumer perceptions of food loss, waste, and bio-based packaging. Insights gathered will inform future initiatives, including sensory evaluation protocols.
  • Life Cycle Assessment Initiatives: The first Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Costing studies were initiated, focusing on the environmental and economic impacts of packaging materials used in food production and transportation.

Looking ahead, the Assembly underscored the importance of continued innovation and alignment with the broader objectives of the European Green Deal. Future tasks include market launch preparations and fostering systemic innovations across the food supply chain.

"Our collaborative efforts are poised to drive significant advancements in sustainable practices within the food industry," remarked Javier Perez from Aitiip Centro Tecnológico (Project Coordinator). "The journey ahead holds great promise as we work towards our shared environmental goals."

The momentum continues to build, with the next General Assembly scheduled for October 2024 in Brussels, Belgium. This forthcoming meeting will serve as a platform to consolidate outcomes and prepare for comprehensive reviews and dissemination of results.

SISTERS is an EU-funded initiative under the Horizon 2020 program, dedicated to revolutionizing the food packaging industry through sustainable technologies that prioritize environmental conservation, food safety, and waste reduction.