The final REFRESH conference that took place on May 10, 2019 in the Disseny Hub Barcelona brought together 150 participants from all across Europe, China, Australia and the US to present and discuss innovative ideas for food waste reduction and valorisation options across the whole supply chain.

REFRESH Final Conference, Barcelona, 2019. All photos by: Sebastian Szulfer

The final REFRESH conference took place on May 10, 2019. It was organized in cooperation with the Barcelona Design Centre and took place in the Disseny Hub Barcelona. The conference brought together 150 participants from all across Europe, China, Australia and the US to present and discuss innovative ideas for food waste reduction and valorisation options across the whole supply chain. With a disco chop in the evening, a “doggy bag design contest” and art installations it used innovative formats for networking and the discussion of the final project results. Preceding the conference, on 9 May, 2019, participants went to field trips in and around Barcelona to see sustainable food production, food waste prevention and reuse and valorisation of food waste in action.


The Conference on 10 May

The programme for the main day of 10 May took place in the Disseny Hub Barcelona.

The conference was opened by REFRESH coordinator Toine Timmermans (Wageningen University & Research) and Stephanie Wunder (Ecologic Institute). In his subsequent keynote, Ignacio de Juan-Creix Umbert and colleagues from PLAT Institute of Augmented Gastronomy pointed out the role of design in food waste reduction and the need for transformation of food systems. He presented innovative valorization options developed by students of the PLAT Institute like bioplastic bottles made from organic food waste to tackle both the global food waste and plastic waste problem.

David Rogers (WRAP) and representatives of the REFRESH national platforms from Germany, Netherlands, Hungary, Spain and China pursued with their achievements in building Voluntary Agreements across the food supply chain that resulted in the "REFRESH voluntary agreements blueprint" and the establishment of National Frameworks for Action in reducing food waste. Hearing that most of the initiated process will continue even after the REFRESH project will end shows the big added value these four year processes had in their respective countries.

In the session on reducing consumer food waste through changed household food management practices, business practices and policy interventions, Erica van Herpen (Wageningen University & Research) pointed out the importance of setting new social norms to change the consumer’s mindset regarding food waste. Further, Stephanie Wunder (Ecologic Institute) emphasized that social norm campaigns are likely to be more effective than simple information and awareness raising campaigns. Most importantly, monitoring and evaluation of interventions are needed to learn more about the effectiveness and impact.

Parallel sessions

After a visually stunning and delicious lunch, provided by BonAprofit, four parallel sessions on specific topics in smaller groups facilitated a more personal and interactive exchange.

In parallel sessions A and B, led by Stephanie Wunder and Elena von Sperber (Ecologic Institute), representatives from retail and wholesale (session A) and out of home/catering sector (session B) shared practical ideas from implemented pilot projects that were then discussed and evaluated by the participants in terms of success factors, challenges and necessary interventions to improve effectiveness.

The FoodWasteEXplorer, an online database providing information on food waste compositional data, and the valorisation spreadsheet tool FORKLIFT, both results of the REFRESH project were presented in parallel session C by Paul Finglas and Hannah Pinchen (Quadram Institute Bioscience), and Karin Östergren (RISE). Further, a techno-economic analysis revealing requirements for and differentiating between high-tech and low-tech valorisation options using the example of tomato pomace was discussed with Jan Broeze (Wageningen Food & Biobased Research) in this parallel session.

As part of the fourth parallel session, David Rogers & Kate Bygrave (WRAP), Åsa Stenmarck (IVL), and Nora Brüggemann (CSCP) pointed out the role of Frameworks for Action for implementing national food waste reduction strategies in helping to bring stakeholders together to work towards a common goal, facilitate their collaboration and offer a flexible approach to tackling food waste.

Ensuing, Prof. Tomoyuki Kawashima (Miyazaki University, Japan), Karen Luyckx (Feedback Global), and Jennifer Davis (RISE) showed the huge potential environmental benefits by feeding surplus food to pigs and chicken. More specifically, 15% of surplus food could become available for non-ruminant feed with a change in legislation that would (re)allow the feeding of such surplus once it has been treated to ensure safety. REFRESH demonstrated how this can be done in Europe, while Prof. Tomoyuki Kawashima reported about this already existing practice in Japan.

The conference was concluded by a panel debate to wrap up policy insights of REFRESH and reflecting food waste policies within circular economy and food systems. The panel was opened by Hilke Bos-Brouwers (Wageningen University & Research). The discussion with Anne-Laure Gassin (DG SANTE), Damien Conaré (UNESCO Chair in World Food Systems), and Alvaro Porro (Barcelona City Council) showed the importance and current momentum to discuss food waste reduction in the broader context of sustainable food systems. Panelists and discussants pointed out that food waste is a symptom of a dysfunctional food system and that approaches addressing the whole value chain are needed, as well as a stronger focus on urban food policies and a change in agricultural policies.

REFRESH Disco Chop

The evening “REFRESH Disco Chop" provided further networking opportunities. Participants chopped and cooked rescued veggies to music, reflected on the impressions of the day and shared a delicious meal made from food that would otherwise have been wasted. The evening programme was planned and implemented by Feedback Global, Plataforma Aprofitem els Aliments (PAA) and CAMPUS-CETT-UB.

Doggy bag exhibition and design contest

Another highlight of the conference was the international doggy bag exhibition and design contest - most likely the first of its sort worldwide! Participants were encouraged to bring their favorite food take away bags or boxes, either an own creative design or developed by their organizations or the countries’ government. In total, a colourful and diverse collection of 22 contributions from 13 countries was exhibited at the conference. Participants voted for their favorite exemplars and three winners were announced with the first price going to the reusable 'Ecobox' with its deposit system by the Luxemburgish government, represented by Stephanie Goergen. The 'TreatBox' from Denmark, designed by Jakob Thomasen and represented by Rikke Karlsson was ranked second. The third prize went to the ‘Broccoli Box' from Slovenia, brought to the conference by Barbara Koroušić Seljak.


Field Trips and Events on 9 May

On the day before the conference four on hands experience were offered, featuring food waste innovators from business and civil society in the Barcelona area.

The bike trip around the Agricultural Park of Gallecs, brought participants 15 km north of Barcelona. Between lush meadows and fields of this predominantely organically managed land, Gemma Safont I Artal and Albert Garcia Macian from the Consortium of Gallecs explained the history of the Park, its relevance for the local community in terms of sustainable food supply and recreational activities. The guided tour led to local producers and the agricultural cooperative. The tour ended with a picnic-style food tasting of local produce.

At the guided walking tour around the Mediterranean’s Biggest Food Hub ‘Mercabarna’, participants learned about food waste reduction in a Food Hub that guarantees the supply of fresh food to over 10 million consumers. The tour led to the Central Fruit and Vegetable Market, the Food Bank warehouse which serves as a collection and distribution centre for the excess fresh food donated by the companies, and the “Green Point” where Mercabarna’s waste is collected and separated.

At PLAT Institute, food valorization options were taught in a 3-hour hands-on upcycling workshop, that included the creation of bioplastics out of food waste. First, the hosts Ignacio de Juan-Creix and Irene Ródenas from PLAT gave theoretical input on the bioplastic research conducted at the institute.In the practical session participants had the chance to explore different techniques, compositions and recipes to develop own prototypes in small group settings and finally make our own sustainable bioplastics.

In the open and interactive dialogue over dinner ‘Food-for-Thought’, hosted by Mayya Papaya from Foodisms, participants discussed about sustainable food and its meaning in the urban context, while enjoying a 3-course-meal from seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients.


The REFRESH Conference Agenda is available for download.

For a visual overview, check out the picture gallery below or visit the extended photo library for a more detailed impression. All conference pictures were taken by Sebastian Szulfer.

Conference Venue:

Disseny Hub Barcelona
Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, 37-38
08018 Barcelona


In Cooperation with:



09/05/2019 to 10/05/2019


  • English


Ecologic Institute