Report: NatRefs can improve food retail store sustainability

The use of natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration can improve supermarket efficiency, according to a technical report on the ‘Proposal for the Development of EU Ecolabel Criteria for Food Retail Stores’, published at the end of the EU-funded SuperSmart project.

The report, drawn up by project partners and coordinated by Kerstin Martens from the German Environment Agency (UBA), suggests criteria for a proposed new EU Ecolabel for food retail stores.

The report identifies 15 criteria covering the main environmental impacts of food retail stores: four in the area ‘HVAC&R’, six in the area ‘Building’ and five criteria in the area ‘Operating the store’.

The criteria cover the most important environmental and/or social hotspots of food retail stores identified by life cycle assessment and further analysis as described in preliminary reports published in 2016 and 2017.

Thus the impact of techniques for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) installed in a store as well as store construction and operations were taken into account. Besides energy-efficient and environmentally friendly techniques, the issues include product range, waste generation, water consumption, and management systems.

Each criterion contains mandatory requirements and point score requirements to ensure that only the 10-20 % best performing European food retail stores can be awarded with the label. For example, specific criteria attribute points only to stores that use natural refrigerants and that have a heat recovery system in place.

The EU Ecolabel is designed to encourage supermarket stakeholders to implement environmentally friendly and eco-efficient technologies and thus reduce the environmental impact of food retail stores. In Europe, according to several regional studies, the whole food sector from agriculture to retail and waste can account for up to 30% of overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The SuperSmart project ran from February 2016 to January 2019 and was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement N. 696076). It sought to demonstrate the environmental benefits of implementing efficient heating and cooling solutions, as well as the economic benefits of reducing energy use in supermarkets across Europe.

The report is available here.