A virtual showcase for the cold chain

From the field to the supermarket: the stages where cold intervenes are manifold and essential, to allow foods to reach consumers’ tables intact (Credits: https://ozone.unep.org)
From the field to the supermarket: the stages where cold intervenes are manifold and essential, to allow foods to reach consumers’ tables intact (Credits: https://ozone.unep.org)

The cold chain must be sustainable everywhere to be able to meet the Millennium’s targets indeed

The cold chain plays a fundamental role to deliver food or a pharmaceutical product under safety conditions.

To highlight the importance and the ubiquity of the cold chain, UNEP has organized a virtual exhibition, started in October 2021, which will continue along the whole 2022. The title of the exhibition? “Sustainable Cold Chain Virtual Expo”.

The exhibition intends to group under a single online initiative the technologies of the cold chain available on trade for foods and vaccines, which use climate-friendly refrigerants and which have characteristics of high energy efficiency. Moreover, it aims at promoting systemic revolutionary approaches and eventually alternative solutions for cold chains, considering a holistic system perspective.

These technologies and these approaches directly share in meeting the national obligations pursuant the Montreal Protocol about the substances that reduce the ozone layer, including its Kigali Amendment and the Paris Agreement about climatic changes.

However, let us see this exhibition a bit more in detail.

At this site, we can find nine virtual exhibition “halls”, where suitable technologies and solutions for that particular shift are “on show”. The geographical area for which the technology has been developed is indicated for each solution. All proposed solutions are already available on trade and comply with very precise parameters, such as:

  • The solution/technology neither uses nor contains noxious substances for the ozone controlled by Montreal Protocol, that is it uses substances with zero ozone depletion potential (ODP);
  • It uses refrigerants with a low value of global warming potential (GWP) where with low GWP it is meant the value recognized and allowed by the law of the Country where the technology is used;
  • It has design and operational characteristics that significantly improve the energy efficiency;
  • It is available on trade and economically feasible;
  • It finds applications in the cold chain.

An invitation to companies
This exhibition considers only technologies defined as applications and equipment consisting of mechanical, electrical and electronic components. It does not include refrigerants per se, single components or tools, services. Currently, not all “halls” feature some solutions but UNEP invites the companies that offer technologies intended for one or the other link of the cold chain and that conform to above-indicated parameters to nominate their solution for this virtual and world exhibition through the module available at the site.

Application Temperature Appliances
Technologies of post collection on the spot and pre-cooling applications Various Small-size appliances for degradable foods, fruits, diary products and vegetables
Conservation of products, for instance in refrigerated warehouses 0/+12°C Refrigerating appliances
Conservation on board of ships, airplanes and containers 0/+12°C o -18/-5°C Refrigerating cells, freezers, compact appliances of various sizes
Food processing plants Various Refurbishing appliances and services to improve the existing performances
Transport (large or small trucks, small container for last-mile deliveries) 0/+12°C or under zero Various types of refrigeration appliances, depending on the product processed. More temperature levels, including under-zero, medium and high temperatures
Distribution centres Various According to treated products, three temperature levels can be applied:  -5/-28°C; 0/+12°C; +10/+12°C.
Supermarkets Various According to the cold distribution:

  1. With distributed independent units, for both mean and low temperature;
  2. With central units operated from remote with mean and low temperature (centralized systems)
Supermarkets and professional gastronomy (restaurants, bars, touristic structures and so on) Various Commercial and professional units such as wall furniture, freezers, blast chillers, refrigerating cells,
Vaccines and other pharmaceutical products Various All places and kinds of refrigerated conservation, isothermal packages, refrigerators and freezers used to conserve and to transport vaccines and pharmaceutical products,

TABLE 1: Example of technologies that can find space in the virtual exhibition. The list has just exemplificatory and not limitative or restrictive value. Source

Why and for whom this exhibition?
The exhibition shows sustainable solutions for the cold chain, currently already available on the market in industrial production. These solutions can be included in national strategies and plans of gradual HFC elimination according to Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment. Moreover, they can contribute to national plans provided for by Paris Agreement. They can constitute a contribution for end-users to decrease their activities’ carbon footprint or, in many Countries, to improve their activity, making it more competitive. For this reason, the virtual expo is dedicated to political and decision-maker managers, as well as to end-users of the public and private sector, as tool to identify the various technological options and to keep pace with forefront solutions for the cold chain. It is also conceived for OEM and suppliers of technological solutions, to spread the knowledge of their technologies in line with the climatic targets of emission reduction.