Low Global Warming Potential Refrigerants Help Reduce Food Waste to Feed a Hungry World

Low Global Warming Potential Refrigerants Help Reduce Food Waste to Feed a Hungry World

When it comes to ending world hunger, we are headed in the wrong direction. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021, an increase of 46 million from the previous year and 150 million since 2019.

You can blame the usual suspects for worsening conditions: COVID-19 and its impact on the supply chain; inflation, which has caused the agriculture price index to spike 19% since 2021; and global warming and its severe effect on agricultural production. Less obvious – but just as consequential – is the enormous impact of loss and waste on the global food supply.

If you still equate the phrase “food waste” with your parents’ pleas to clean your plate, it’s time to think again. Food loss and waste are serious problems that not only affect the world’s ability to feed the hungry, but squander all the water, land, energy, labor and capital dedicated to producing, transporting and storing food that never gets eaten.


How big is the food loss and waste problem?

The numbers are staggering, according to the United Nations, which has declared September 29 International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. The United Nations says about 14% of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, and 17% of total food production is wasted. 

The food supply chain requires a reliable and uninterrupted series of refrigerated production, storage, transportation and distribution activities. Modern refrigeration technologies create an efficient cold chain to ensure a safe supply of fresh and frozen foods to consumers worldwide, including in regions affected by food insecurity.  

While essential, we also need to consider ways to reduce the environmental impact of the cold chain. One way to do that is by replacing conventional high-global-warming-potential (GWP) refrigerants with reduced-impact alternatives. Honeywell’s Solstice® portfolio of ready-now low-GWP hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants perform as well or better than previous-generation products and create a much smaller environmental footprint.


Honeywell’s Solstice portfolio reduces emissions across the food cold chain 

Growing fruits and vegetables in the desert is not an easy proposition. But a new generation of farmers are using climate-controlled greenhouses to manage temperature, light, humidity and water usage to create indoor oases where plants can thrive in ideal growing conditions. For example, Pure Harvest Smart Farms is using Honeywell Solstice® zd to control the environment and reduce carbon emissions in greenhouses in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Solstice zd has a GWP of less than 1, which is 99 percent below the GWP of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants it is designed to replace.

Regardless of where food is grown, processed or stored, it usually moves from one spot on the cold chain to another in refrigerated containers or in refrigerated trucks designed to transport items needing temperature control. These conveyances are insulated to keep their cargo fresh or frozen, and high-performing insulated panels and board-stocks are manufactured using ultra-low-GWP Honeywell Solstice® Liquid Blowing Agent (LBA). In September 2012, the first Solstice LBA blown foam insulated refrigerated container was produced at Yangzhou Tonglee factory in close collaboration Unit 45, a global company that sells and leases refrigerated shipping containers, marking a decade of Honeywell’s presence in this market. These refrigerated containers, insulated with polyurethane foam formulated with Honeywell Solstice LBA, offer both high energy efficiency and low environmental impact.

Ippolito Food and Produce is an integrated producer that not only plants, grows and harvests vegetables, it processes them for shipment to supermarkets and other customers. The company recently upgraded the cooling system in its processing facility and chose Honeywell Solstice® N15 (R-515B), a low-GWP HFO blend refrigerant well-suited for medium-temperature commercial refrigeration and high-temperature cooling systems. Its reduced GWP is 77% lower than alternative refrigerants.


From the Supermarket to the Kitchen

Sustainability is a priority for many supermarket chains, but when your goal is to “nourish people and nourish the planet,” you pay special attention to your carbon footprint. That’s why Whole Foods chose Solstice® N40 (R-448A) lower-GWP refrigerant for commercial refrigeration systems at 100-plus stores across the United States. Solstice N40 offers a GWP 68% lower than legacy HFC refrigerants like R-404A.

On the home front, Honeywell is the leader in ultra-low-GWP blowing agents used by appliance manufacturers to install rigid-foam insulation in refrigerators and freezers. Honeywell Solstice LBA helps manufacturers such as Whirlpool deliver the energy-saving efficiency homeowners expect, while reducing the environmental impact of these essential appliances. Solstice LBA has a GWP of less than 1.

So far, Honeywell has invested a billion dollars in research, development and new capacity for Solstice technology. Meanwhile, our teams of scientists, chemists and engineers continue to explore ways to protect the planet and meet society’s needs.

This includes applying our unique expertise to solving the problem of food loss and waste and providing everyone with access to a safe, reliable and sustainable food supply—which, after all, is a fundamental human right.  

Ken West
President, Honeywell Advanced Materials