CoreZero’s recipe for transforming food waste into lower emissions

SL Staff

The digital platform enables organisations that reduce food waste to fund their work through the sale of carbon credits

Project Brief

Company: CoreZero

Solution: A digital platform that enables food rescue, food upcycling, composting and food waste-to-energy projects to quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions they prevent by minimising organic waste. For the first time ever, CoreZero has enabled those projects to quantify the emissions they prevent from entering into the atmosphere through their waste-prevention efforts, and translate this data into carbon credits to be sold on the voluntary carbon market.

Impact: Increases zero-waste projects’ access to capital by enabling entry to the voluntary carbon market, while improving their ability to make a positive impact on people and the planet.

Each year, around one-third of the food produced in Mexico goes to waste. That is the equivalent of discarding around 39 tonnes of food – or more than 160,800 Big Macs – every minute.

The Red Bancos de Alimentos de México, or Mexican FoodBanking Network (BAMX), is a nonprofit organisation that works with producers and retailers to rescue food and other consumer items from final disposal and make them available to vulnerable people and communities.

Through its nationwide network of more than 50 food banks, BAMX rescued almost 150,000kg of food in 2022, helping to nourish some of the 28.6 million Mexicans who live in a state of food insecurity.

With around one-third of all food produced globally going to waste, this is a global problem with significant environmental as well as social impacts.

When food waste goes to landfill and rots, it produces methane. Methane is a gas with 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over two decades. Estimates of the emissions impact of food waste range from 8% to 10% of all emissions globally.

CoreZero is a climate-tech company on a mission to tackle food waste by helping waste prevention initiatives to access capital and improve their ability to serve vulnerable communities, by turning the organic waste they rescue and upcycle into carbon credits. 

CoreZero works with BAMX, in addition to several projects in Peru, and is in the process of expanding its operations internationally.

The CoreZero technology

CoreZero’s digital platform enables organisations to quantify the amount of GHG emissions they prevent from entering the atmosphere through their efforts to recycle food waste. The technology converts those waste volumes into carbon-reduction units and finally carbon credits. The process works as follows:

  1. Assess: CoreZero collects the data required from prospective projects to evaluate their potential to generate enough carbon credits for the project to make financial sense.
  2. Integrate: On confirming that a project meets the minimum threshold for additionality, or, that the project will deliver GHG reductions in excess of those it would have delivered in the absence of the carbon credits project, CoreZero integrates its digital technology into the project’s existing operating systems through application programming interfaces.
  3. Quantify: Using a set of validated methodologies based on waste category, weight and the associated emission factors, CoreZero’s technology converts quantities of recycled waste into carbon-reduction units. All carbon-reduction units generated through the platform are tracked and reported using blockchain technology, helping to ensure data integrity and traceability.
  4. Monetise: CoreZero submits a report to a carbon-offset registry outlining the project’s work and emissions-reduction impact. Carbon registries track offsetting projects and issue carbon credits accordingly. In addition to adhering to the relevant registry’s requirements, every project in which CoreZero is involved is verified by independent third parties, which provide assurance of the company’s emissions-reduction calculations in accordance with ISO standards. The BAMX project is listed on the CSA Group Clean Projects registry, and was validated by Swiss certification company SGS and verified by consulting firm EcoEngineers. Such assurances provide evidence of the quality of the carbon credits generated by CoreZero projects, which makes it easier for the likes of BAMX to sell those credits. CoreZero charges for its services by taking a percentage of the carbon credits revenue.

Environmental and social impact

CoreZero works with NGOs, organisations and private companies with a mission to reduce organic waste. 

“Food banks, pantries and other NGOs tend to lack stable and sustainable sources of funding, which is exactly what we offer them,” explains Natalie Dzigciot, communications manager at CoreZero. “Valorisation of their work and financial resources are the main hook for our partners, but also access to the carbon market,” she adds.

Partnering with BAMX, CoreZero has converted more than 190,000 tonnes of recovered food waste to date into carbon credits – the first to have ever been serialised from food-waste sources.

While BAMX benefits from being able to raise capital by selling those credits on the voluntary carbon market, businesses now have access to a new offsetting vertical, helping them to further compensate for the emissions they cannot yet prevent or reduce. 

Between 2021 and 2022, the project generated over 220,000 credits. CoreZero’s 10-year estimate suggests the BAMX project could achieve emissions reductions of around 1.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, potentially resulting in the generation of millions more carbon credits that BAMX can sell in order to support its operations.

Why carbon credits from food waste

Carbon credits represent a somewhat contentious issue in discussions on climate action. Although environmental groups including the World Wildlife Fund advise companies looking to reduce their footprint to consider carbon credits as a last resort, CoreZero’s Dzigciot is adamant about their role in the climate agenda. “Carbon credits are a necessary transition to a green economy,” she says, adding that advancements in environmentally friendly technologies are failing to keep pace with economic growth.

Not all carbon credits are created the same. Avoidance credits, such as those generated by CoreZero projects, represent a quantity of emissions prevented from entering into the atmosphere in the first instance. Emissions can be avoided by recycling waste, for example. Removal credits on the other hand are derived from actions taken to extract carbon from the atmosphere, such as tree planting.

“The great thing about avoidance credits is that they have an immediate impact on CO2 reduction,” Dzigciot notes.

CoreZero is one of a growing number of exponents of the market for food-waste avoidance credits. Verra, one of the ‘big four’ carbon offset registries, launched its own methodology for generating carbon credits from food waste in July 2023.

Offsetting is only one side of the CoreZero coin, however. The other is supporting social enterprises in serving vulnerable communities and, to that end, the climate tech startup has already seen success. In part thanks to the sale of carbon credits generated using the CoreZero platform, explains Dzigciot, “BAMX is already improving its ability to bring food to those who need it most”.

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