Last Minute Market in English

Last Minute Market – Italy | Transforming waste into resources


Last Minute Market is a project where retailers, shops and producers who have unsold food which would otherwise be discarded are linked with people and charities who need food. Originating in Bologna, it is active in more than 40 Italian towns, with 2 new projects under development in Argentina and Brazil.

LMM offers services to enterprises and institutions in order to prevent and reduce waste production at its origin. It also develops innovative services for the recovery and reuse of unsold goods. Since the introduction of the Italian anti–waste law in 2008, non-food items can also be recovered. LMM helps:

  • companies to manage surpluses in innovative ways, which can reduce waste disposal costs and improve the company’s links with the local community
  • public institutions and the community benefit from the reduction in the flow of waste to landfill and improve food availability for the sectors of society that need it
  • the third sector reduce operating costs and release resources for other projects

LMM has 6 different and interrelated areas of activities:

  • Food- unsold food which is still edible
  • Harvest- vegetables not harvested which would be rejected by retailers due to cosmetic reasons or weather damage
  • Seeds- seeds that do not conform with market standards
  • Catering- products not served by public and private catering
  • Books- unsold books that would otherwise be destroyed
  • Pharmacy- unsold pharmaceuticals which can be used to meet the health needs of socially disadvantaged people

Project history

Last Minute Market Ltd. (LMM) is a spin-off from the University of Bologna and it evolved from a research project initiated by Professor Andrea Segrè – now Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture. The idea for setting up such a project resulted from analyses of the problem of food availability (food security) and its distribution. It has been running since 1998.

Project purpose

In recent years, despite a thriving economy (until recently) and reports of welfare reform success, a growing number of people in developed countries have sought emergency food assistance because households did not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. For a variety of reasons, the same developed economies produce a growing quantity of food surplus. Such surplus is present everywhere in the food chain, from agricultural production to the retail system and often is still edible.

LMM is a project designed to address waste in its many aspects and at the same time to help people in need. This can yield environmental, climate and societal benefits.

The supply of unsold edible foods is provided by processing industries, food shops, retail stores and the like. For these organisations, the surplus foods and other products represent a cost, as they need to be transported and disposed of in landfill. Demand for these products comes from a number of charity associations or non profit organizations.

Linking surplus (supply) and deficit (demand) could counterbalance this “imbalanced” food market and this is exactly what LMM does.

The challenges

The main challenges for LMM were at the beginning of the project, as there was a general lack of trust in the likely success and effectiveness of the project. The widespread opinion was that if no similar project had been established before, it was probably for good reasons, such as the market structure and supermarket policies.

Another challenge LMM faced was the need to prove to the Local Health Authority that the food recovered was still good, healthy and edible, intact in all its nutritious components and therefore good to be consumed without health-related risks. Currently, the Local Health Authority is one of the main LMM supporters.

Outcomes of the Project

In 2008 from supermarkets alone, nearly 170 tonnes of good edible food has been recuperated through LMM, with a value of €646,000.

Quantitative and qualitative data analysis has shown that LMM brings about environmental, economic and social benefits. Professor Segrè reports that, if LMM Food were to be adopted nationwide in Italy by supermarkets, small shops and cash and carry shops, €928,157,600 would be the monetary value of recuperated products. Furthermore, these products could provide 3 meals a day to 636,000 people – in total 580,402,025 meals a year.

It is also important to underline that – by not sending these products to the landfill – 291,393 tonnes of CO2 emissions could be spared. This has been calculated through a methodology developed by the Department of Agricultural Economics and Engineering of the Faculty of Agriculture (Bologna) consisting of a time correlation tracer method based on a Fourier Transform Infrared Analyzer absorption spectroscopy which measures gas levels.

In the case of pharmacies, medicines could be recuperated for a value of €597,504,600. LMM is a win-win project, with benefits for the different stakeholders as well as for the environment.

Plans for the future of the project

In the future, LMM would like to promote a comprehensive strategy, aiming at further developing its 6 different and interrelated areas of activities (food, harvest, seeds, catering, book, pharmacy) and covering the whole of Italy.

LMM will also continue to work in order to promote the passing of anti-waste laws in Italy and in establishing fruitful collaborations on a national and international scale with research institutions and organizations working on waste management and reduction.

In Argentina LMM has recently launched a project on social corporate responsibility and in Brazil LMM is about to start a pilot LMM project in the San Paulo area.

Collaboration and partnerships

The project works in collaboration with large-scale Retail Facilities (Carrefour, Coopadriatica, Despar, E.Leclerc-Conad among others), Public Institutions and Municipalities, Local Health Offices, Universities (University of Sao Paulo and, University of Buenos Aires), Markets, Foundations, Pharmacies, University canteens and hospitals in Verona.

LMM is interested in establishing collaborations with research institutions and organizations dealing with food waste and eventually in starting LMM projects in other European countries.

The big questions

Climate change is currently the most burning issue the whole world has to face. Food production and food waste in particular are closely connected with pollution and climate change.

Food waste makes a major contribution to methane gas production. Food waste could be fed to animals or it can be biodegraded by composting or anaerobic digestion and reused to enrich soil. Dumping food waste into landfill causes environmental damage. It causes odour as it decomposes, attracts flies and vermin, and has the potential to add Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) to the water that leaches from the landfill site.

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