Brace yourself - the Cold Chain is coming

A recent report Cold chains and the demographic dividend has highlighted the looming impact of the growth of cold chain (a temperature-controlled supply chain) infrastructure to service the emerging middle class. The study conducted by Dearman, zero-emission power and cooling technology, follows on from previous research conducted by Carbon Trust and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers on the impact of preserving food with efficient cold technology.

The report provides a good analysis on some of the lesser known impacts of the expanding middle class in developing economies. The current and predicted cold chain system is examined in detail, overlaid by the changing demographics of emerging economies.

Some of the important issues and interesting facts that are discussed in the report are:

  • Growing middle class in Asia - Forecasted to expand six-fold to more than 3 billion people by 2030, two-thirds of the world total; with the global urban population growing to 6 billion by 2050; Some Asian countries will not only be richer but younger, for example in India half the population is under 24, and about to enter the period of most growth financially.
  • Current and predicted growth in refrigeration - Less than 4% of India’s fresh produce is transported by cold chain compared to more than 90% in the UK; In China, fridge ownership among urban households rose from 7% to 95% between 1995 and 2007; Also India is the third largest pharmaceutical producer, where output almost tripled to $32 billion from 2008 to 2014. With a large number of vaccines and medication requiring cold chain transportation.
  • Impact of refrigeration on air pollution - To meet the demands a changing diet of the middle class the number of refrigerated trucks is estimated to increase from 2.1 Million in 2013 to 17.8 million in 2025. Many of the refrigerated trucks in developing countries are kept cold by a separate diesel engine which uses up to 20% of the vehicles diesel consumption, producing up to 6 times more Nitrogen Oxide compared to modern trucks.

  • Reducing food waste to feed a growing population - Feeding the world's growing population - 9 billion by 2050 - it is estimated that halving food wastage could feed an extra 1 billion people; with fruit and vegetables worth $4.4 billion being discarded every year in India alone. A sustainable cold chain infrastructure is one measure that could be used to address this issue.

So how can we Cleanleap?

The report discusses the development of a novel ‘cold and power’ approach, which produces both cooling and power from the same unit of liquid air or nitrogen. This efficient practice is being looked at in India where cold chains could be powered from waste cold from LNG re-gasification. People in emerging economies have the right to advance their quality of life to the same level that has been afforded to people in developed countries; to limit the impact on climate change, this development needs to occur with a cleanleap over existing polluting diesel technologies to zero emission cooling for refrigerators at home, and for all points along the cold chain.