COP26 and Temperature Monitoring

With the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, COP26, and a lot of talk around the impact that different industries have on the environment, it’s important to understand what changes could be made quickly and easily to reduce our emissions and the waste we currently produce.

Temperature monitoring may not sound like it has much impact but when we investigate just a few aspects we can see what a difference it can make. A research paper by Lisa Kitinoja, “Use of cold chains for reducing food losses in developing countries” estimates that the amount of food that was wasted due to lack of refrigeration or in other words temperature damage, was 20% globally. Although it’s a very crude calculation, the total estimated CO2 production for food globally was 17,318 billion tonnes per year, according to a paper published in 2021,  “Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods”. That would mean if you could reduce food losses to 0% you could save 3.46 billions tonnes per year of CO2. That is obviously unrealistic because there are always losses in everything we do as humans, we’re not perfect and neither is the environment we live in but if we monitor the temperature of our food during shipping and storage with low cost devices and have appropriate alerts we can definitely bring that 20% down to single figures.

It’s not just the saving of food waste, in situations where the food cannot be saved and it is already lost, the next best thing is to limit its further effect on the environment. For example, if a container refrigeration unit fails in the middle of the Atlantic ocean on a ship and the crew cannot repair it in time, there is nothing that can be done to save the contents. However, if the receiving party was notified that the shipment has spoiled they would be able to stop the container from being collected at the port and being transported to the first destination which would save fuel and reduce the number of vehicles needed for transportation. In this scenario, it is the saving in CO2 from moving a worthless container from the port to the warehouse instead of directing it directly to a different facility for disposal, possibly biodigester, or better still another use such as for animal feeds. 

More significant savings are possible where a shipment has been mis-handled enroute to the port of embarkation or airport. With wireless temperature loggers, it is possible for shipping agents to ensure that a cargo is good to load before it is put on the ship or aircraft. Smashtag’s Chill temperature data logger has been shown to be capable of being downloaded using Bluetooth to a smartphone from outside a standard shipping container. The objective of using such technologies is not just to stop or re-direct spoiled shipments, but for everyone in the logistics chain to be able to put in place quality control and assurance processes to almost eliminate such losses. 

The purpose of temperature loggers in the cold chain industry is to firstly show whether or not the shipment is fit for sale and secondly, if it’s damaged by temperature, where in the cold chain did that problem occur and ultimately for the businesses involved who’s insurance company to make a claim with.