Waste Management Industry

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Frame of Reference

The following section draws on the existing literature and presents the frame of references for this thesis. Firstly, we introduce the notion of food waste, followed by a description of the food waste hierarchy. Further, we present the literature about sustainable entrepreneurship. Finally, we elaborate on the concept of entrepreneurial opportunity, its identification and drivers leading sustainable entrepreneurs to it.

Food Waste

Within the literature, no real consensus has been reached regarding the terminology to use when referring to food waste. Indeed, food waste is sometimes distinguished from food losses. Food losses is essentially used to describe losses in the production, postharvest and processing of products (Grolleaud, 2002; Gustavsson, Cederberg, Sonesson, van Otterdijk, Meybeck, 2011), while food waste is mainly used to describes the food discarded at distribution or consumption level (Gustavsson et al. 2011; Parfitt, Barthel & Macnaughton, 2010). However, in the literature the term food waste is often used without making this distinction. Therefore, “food waste and losses” is referred in this thesis as “food waste” according to the definition below.
Food waste “are the masses of food lost or wasted in the part of food chains leading to edible products going to human consumption” (Gustavsson et al., 2011). According to this definition, food waste is measured only by products that are directed to human consumption, excluding feed and parts of products which are considered as not edible. Consequently, food that was originally meant to human consumption but that is not used to its end, is considered as food waste. This definition is relevant in the context of this thesis and is acknowledged in the recent literature within the food waste management field (Papargyropoulou et al., 2014).

FWaste Hierarchy

The food waste hierarchy is a useful tool to rank waste management alternatives by sustainability performance (Garcia-Garcia, Woolley, Rahimifard, Colwill, White & Needham, 2017). It means that the final aim of this model is to prioritize the food waste management options in regard to the better environmental, economic and social outcomes. This model is used to classify the food waste management alternatives within the sample studied in this thesis. As illustrated in Figure 1, the most favorable option is to “reduce” food waste by prevention, and at the bottom of the inverted pyramid, the least favorable option is “disposal”, which mainly refers to landfilling. As an alternative to disposal, several uses for food waste have been recognized as valuable options (Fehr, Calçado & Romão, 2002; Ingrao, Faccilongo, Di Gioia, & Messineo, 2018).


Reducing is the top action against waste as it tackles food waste at its root by efficiently use materials, enhanced design and reduced operational costs (Monkhouse, Bowyer & Farmer, 2003). However, it suggests that the action is taken upstream, before the waste is generated. This thesis is focused on how to deal with food waste that have already been produced. Consequently, the alternatives to “reduce” food waste will not be considered.
This thesis is centered around the following food waste management alternatives: reusing and recycling/recovering.


To avoid landfilling, the model proposes to “reuse” food waste. The first option, “redistribution food human consumption” refers to perishable food likely to be disposed at the retail stage because it is close to the sell-by date. However, in some cases this food is still suitable for human consumption and it could be diverted, for example, to charitable organizations to feed people (Alexander & Smaje, 2008).
Another solution is to contribute to a better redistribution of the food. Too Good To Go, is a French company that is trying to tackle the food waste issue by enabling a better redistribution of food through the use of an mobile app. On the app, restaurants, cafes and grocery stores can sell their food excess to customers for cheap prices. Customers can purchase the food through the app and pick it up directly at the restaurants or stores. It means that these restaurants or stores no longer have to throw away food, customers can eat at a cheap price while reducing food waste and limiting their ecological footprint. This concept is spreading worldwide. For instance, the company, Karma, has launched a similar concept and app in Sweden. An additional solution to reuse food waste is exploited by Babelicot, an organic cannery committed to zero waste. This French company buys surplus vegetable production from organic and local market gardeners to transform them into new finished products (e.g. sauces, condiments, soups or baby food).
The second option, “Animal feed” refers to the reuse of food waste for animal consumption. One example is GrubTubs, a US-based company that recovers food waste from restaurants and grocery stores into nutrient-rich animal feed affordable for the local farmer.

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Recycle, recover

Athe model, when food waste cannot be redistributed or transformed for human or animal consumption, there are still many available options to recycle or recover it. For instance, companies are extracting components of interest. For instance, Agraloop is extracting fibers from food crop waste and turn them into valuable fiber products (e.g. textiles, packaging).

Moreover, Anaerobic Digestion [AD] is one of the options proposed by the model and is a “technology to treat organic-matter rich biomass, also in the form of residues and waste, that is increasingly being deployed as a renewable energy generation source” (Styles, Mesa Dominguez & Chadwick, 2016; Nayal, Mammadov & Ciliz, 2016). Within the literature, AD seems to have the best potential. With this technology, food waste could be effectively used in energy generation or composting (Nahman & de Lange, 2013). Indeed, food waste has great potentials to be recovered, thanks to AD, into high-value energy, fuel, and natural nutrients (Ingrao et al., 2018). This technique is used by BinHappy, a French startup, which gather all type of food waste from restaurants and catering services, to turn them into biogas and compost.


Within the food waste hierarchy, the least favorable option is “disposal” (Garcia-Garcia, 2017; Ribeiro et al., 2018). This mainly refers to landfilling which has a high environmental impact (Ingrao et al., 2018). Its economic and social outcomes are also negative. As the purpose of food waste management is to find alternatives to avoid “disposal”, this notion will not be discussed in this thesis.

FWaste Management Industry

Nowadays, most of the food waste are placed in landfills which has a negative environmental impact because of the greenhouse gas emissions it releases in the air (Messineo, Freni & Volpe, 2012). Simultaneously, food waste management can have a positive impact in the transition towards a more sustainable society (Kim, Song, Song, Jeong, Kim, 2013; Ingrao et al., 2016), and can play a crucial role for the sustainability of communities or the well-being of humans (Chen, Rojas-Downing, Zhong, Saffron & Liao, 2015).
Food waste is still associated with something dirty in most people’s minds. Moreover, large companies do not want to invest in the management of their waste as they do not identify the potential positive returns of doing so. The FWMI is relatively new and underdeveloped as these barriers need to be overcome. However, as mentioned earlier a few entrepreneurs, mostly driven by environmental and social concerns are beginning to recognize the potential benefits of these waste. They create startups using food waste as a core resource in their production process. This is why entrepreneurship is discussed in the next section, as it is inherent to uncover new ideas, methods, products and to the development of new markets (Casson, 1982).

Sustainable Entrepreneurship

1999, John Elkington introduced the concept of TBL. The framework advances the aim of sustainability in business practices, in which companies look beyond profits to include social and environmental concerns to measure the full cost of doing business (Elkington, 1999). He further explains that to remain viable, companies must incorporate the three pillars: Planet, People, Profit. It can be perceived as a tool to measure the balance between economic, environmental and social aspects. Therefore, this model is used in this thesis to reflect on the nature of entrepreneurship.
According to the TBL framework, conventional entrepreneurship can be defined as focusing primarily on economic value creation (Schaper, Füglistaller, Pleitner, Volery & Weber, 2002; Vuorio et al. 2018). In this thesis entrepreneurship is referring to “the discovery and exploitation of profitable opportunities” (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000, p. 217). However, as mentioned in the problem section, entrepreneurship has been proposed to have a central role in solving societal (Wheeler et al., 2005, Vuorio et al., 2018) and environmental issues (Cohen & Winn, 2007; Dean & McMullen, 2007; Vuorio et al., 2018). Thus, these issues allowed the emergence of the following notions: Social entrepreneurship and Environmental entrepreneurship.
According to Zahra, Gedajlovic, Neubaum & Shulman (2009) social entrepreneurship “encompasses the activities and processes undertaken to discover, define, and exploit opportunities in order to enhance social wealth by creating new ventures or managing existing organizations in an innovative manner » (p. 519). Within this definition we can see that, unlike conventional entrepreneurship – referred in their study as “mainstream entrepreneurship” there is a social matter that is included. Thus, social entrepreneurship refers to two aspects of the TBL: People and Profit. Then, environmental entrepreneurship is acknowledged as the actions driven by the imagination and the impact of the conventional entrepreneur combined with environmental concern (Beveridge & Guy, 2005). Therefore, the concept of environmental entrepreneurship is linked to two aspects of the TBL Planet and Profit.
Finally, sustainable entrepreneurship differs from entrepreneurship as a result of focusing on combining the three types of value namely: social, environmental and economic (Cohen & Winn, 2007; Dean & McMullen, 2007; Hockerts & Wüstenhagen, 2010; Shepherd & Patzelt, 2011). This thesis refers to sustainable entrepreneurship as “the discovery, creation, and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities that contribute to sustainability by generating social and environmental gains for others in society (Hockerts & Wüstenhagen, 2010; Pacheco, Dean Payne, 2010; Shepherd & Patzelt, 2011). This definition is consistent with the TBL framework as sustainable entrepreneurship is acknowledged to encompass the three variables: People, Planet, Profit.

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Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Without an opportunity, there is no entrepreneurship” (Short, Ketchen, Shook & Ireland, 2010, p. 40).

Entrepreneurial Opportunity Identification

If the term sometimes lacks clarity in the literature, entrepreneurial opportunity is commonly defined as “situations in which new goods, services, raw materials, markets and organizing methods can be introduced through the formation of new means, ends, or means-ends relationships” (Casson, 1982; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000; Eckhardt & Shane, 2003, p. 336). Eckhardt and Shane (2003), further specified that entrepreneurial opportunity flow from the creation or identification of new ends and means that were either undetected or unutilized by market actors. So, an entrepreneurial opportunity only exists if people do not agree on the value of a resource (Eckhardt & Shane, 2003).
Despite the amount of research conducted on the opportunity topic in entrepreneurship, literature has still not reached a consensus on the definition and nature of opportunity (Short et al., 2010). We distinguish two main approaches, one stating that opportunities are discovered and the other that they are created (Alvarez & Barney, 2007; Short et al., 2010). However, it is not a binary view. Researchers perceive opportunities as a gradual creative process, synthesizing ideas over time (Dimov, 2007), as a chance to introduce innovative goods, services or processes (Gaglio, 2004) or focus on the opportunities’ role while creating new ventures (Baron, 2008). The two main schools are known as the constructivist and objectivist perspectives (Wood & McKinley, 2010). The widely adopted objectivist perspective claims that opportunities exist independently of the entrepreneur (Kirzner, 1997; Eckhardt & Shane, 2003). In other words, the identification of opportunities implies searching and finding them (González, Husted, Aigner, 2017). More recently, the constructivist perspective has gained interest in the literature (Wood & McKinley, 2010). As opposed to the objectivist view, opportunities are created by entrepreneurs. They are produced through a process of social construction and cannot exist apart from the entrepreneur (Sarasvathy, 2001; Baker & Nelson, 2005; Dimov, 2007; Wood & McKinley, 2010).

1.1. Problem
1.2. Purpose
1.3. Research question
2. Frame of Reference 
2.1. Food Waste
2.2. Sustainable Entrepreneurship
2.3. Entrepreneurial Opportunity
3. Methodology and method 
3.1. Research Philosophy
3.2. Research Method
3.3. Research Strategy
3.4. Sampling Criteria
3.5. Data Collection
3.6. Data Analysis Procedure
3.7. Quality
3.8. Research Ethics
4. Empirical Findings 
4.1. Awareness of Unsustainable Issues in Natural Environment/Community
4.2. Awareness of Environmental Issues linked to Food Waste
4.3. Awareness of the Food Waste Market Trends, Policies, and Regulations
4.4. Serendipity of Relationships
4.5. Altruism toward Others
4.6. Educate Consumers and Other Companies toward Sustainable Practices
4.7. Entrepreneurial Curiosity toward Sustainability
4.8. Prior Knowledge linked to Sustainability
4.9. Summary of the Common Factors Leading the Interviewees to the Identification of their Entrepreneurial Opportunity
5. Analysis 
5.1. Drivers Leading to Entrepreneurial Opportunity Identification within the Food Waste Management Industry
5.2. Contextual Factors
6. Conclusion 
7. Discussion 
7.1. Contributions and Implications
7.2. Limitations
7.3. Further research
8. References 
9. Appendices

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