Milan Food Waste Hubs

One of the priorities of Milan Food Policy is reducing food waste by engaging different local actors such as institutions, research centers, private sector, foundations and social actors.

To translate that priority in actions, in 2016 the Municipality of Milan, Assolombarda and Politecnico di Milano, shared “Zero Sprechi” memorandum of understanding, with the aim of reducing food waste and innovating the ways of recovering food for the people in need, designing and experimenting a model of collection and redistribution of food surplus, based on local neighborhood networks.

The actions started between 2018 and 2019 with the launching of a first pilot project in Municipio 9 and in 2021 there are 3 more Hubs in other city neighborhoods.

The first pilot: Hub Isola (Municipio 9)

The Municipality of Milan identified an empty and free location in Municipio 9 and made it available for the pilot project as a Hub for the collection, storage and distribution of recovered food from supermarkets to local non profit organizations.

First of all the Politecnico di Milano developed a feasibility study of the network involved and monitored the 12-months-impact Hub operations. This, building an extendable and spreadable logistic model for other city neighborhoods.
Assolombarda engaged some local companies, promoted, and shared with the other partners “ZeroSprechi” label, designed by Armando Testa Group.

Banco Alimentare della Lombardia, selected through a public tender, guaranteed its daily operational management model, designed by Politecnico, recovering food surplus and distributing it to charities.
QuBì program- La ricetta contro la povertà infantile, who has already launched a similar Hub in Umiliati street, joined the project financing the set-up and management of Hub Isola and promoting the linkage with local networks.

How it works

Each Hub is equipped with:

  • a refrigeration unit for the management of fresh food
  • shelves for dry packaged foods
  • a small office for the management of archives and logistic procedures.

The use of a small refrigerated van, provided by logistic operator Number1 Logistics Group, allows the daily recovery of food surplus from supermarkets and the storage in the hubs for the redistribution to the non profit organizations. Moreover, another vehicle is provided for the recovery of food surplus and its redistribution from company canteens directly to nonprofit organizations.

Types of food collected and donated

Food Waste Hubs model allows to act on all types of food collected: fresh, cooked, dry, bread. Direct contact between supermarkets and non-profit organizations risks generating single-product peaks that are difficult to manage.

The Hubs, allow the mixing of recovered food, making it possible to donate a varied, nutritious and balanced food offer to people in need, alongside the direct contact between the supermarket and the non-profit organization.

Logistic model for collecting food surplus

The logistic model allows two daily paths for collecting food surplus:

Supermarkets – Morning

In the morning the organizations in charge of the management of the Hub, collect fresh, dry and packaged unsold foodstuff, from supermarkets directly from the points of sale belonging to the network, using the insulated van. The recovered food is stored at the Hub and the food packages are prepared selecting the goods recovered.

Company canteens – Afternoon

In the afternoon the collection of cooked unserved food, packaged or bulk fruit and bread surplus from company canteens, is directly delivered to people in need through the non profit organization connected with the Hub. Where possible, it is carried out at the same time as collection from supermarkets.

Non-profit organizations who offer canteen service or package distribution for people in need can reach the hubs, by their own means, to pick-up the food they need in an assorted way.

Food Waste Hubs in the city

There are 5 food waste hubs with different actors participating. 3 are already opened, the others will by launched by the end of 2021.

In Isola Hub, situated at Municipio 9 and launched in 2019, Politecnico and Assolombarda identified and engaged 11 supermarkets, 5 company canteens and, through Banco Alimentare della Lombardia and QuBì Program, other 20 onlus joined the network of collection and redistribution. These numbers have grown over time.

In Lambrate Hub, launched in 2020 and situated at Municipio 3, Avis Comunale of Milan made the premises available esuring the use of a part of their building, BCC of Milan financed some maintenance work of the Hub and Banco Alimentare della Lombardia manages the collection and redistribution activities to nonprofit organizations.

In Gallaratese Hub launched in 2021, at Municipality 8, the Municipality provided the location, the Milan Foundation has financed some maintenance work of the Hub and the Terre des Hommes association manages the collection and redistribution activities to the charities. In addition, it coordinates a broad partnership made up of IBVA Solidando, the Italian Red Cross – Sud Milan Committee, RimaFlow, Fuorimercato, STAG, QuBì Gallaratese.

Two other new hubs will be opened. One in Corvetto thanks to the involvement of the SNAM Foundation and Banco Alimentare della Lombardia, while the fifth in the city center is beeing co deisgned with some organizations and it will be soon presented.

A new Hub has been just launched at the Milan General wholesale market – Foody Sogemi, through the “Foody Zero Waste” call developed by the Cariplo Foundation, the Municipality of Milan and the public company SogeMi. The call selected the University of Milan, Banco Alimentare della Lombardia, RECUP, Italian Red Cross – Sud Milan Committee, to innovate the way of recovering and redistributing surpluses of fruit and vegetables from the Milan General grocery market.

Companies and supermarkets

Thanks to the engagement of Assolombarda, multiple companies joined the initiative through their canteens, which, in pre-covid times, used to participate to the surplus recovery action.

Also with regard to supermakets, through the action of the Politecnico di Milano, several important distribution chains with local sales shops, have already joined the initiative in the various districts: Lidl Italia, Esselunga, Coop Lombardia, Carrefour, Il Gigante, Penny Market, Natura Si, Bennet, Erbert. New stores will be involved with the openings of the next hubs.

Winners of Earthshot Prize 2021

The Municipality of Milan, with Food Waste Hubs, is the winner, for the category “Build a waste free World”, of the first edition of the Earthshot Prize, a prestigious international award on the best solutions to protect the environment, launched by Prince William and the Royal Foundation.