What’s the Real Scoop on Ice Cream Sustainability? - Pager Power
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What’s the Real Scoop on Ice Cream Sustainability?

What’s the Real Scoop on Ice Cream Sustainability?
May 14, 2024 Hannah Lucey

The ice cream industry in the UK is worth £1.4 billion [1]. With summer around the corner, how can the industry improve its sustainability to match the UK’s 2030 targets on net-zero? 

Ice cream vans are a nostalgic treat that harks to the beginning of summer, their tunes synonymous with good childhood memories. However, petrol and diesel ice cream vans are contributing to growing carbon emissions. The average petrol van emits 147.3g CO2/Km whilst diesel vans emit on average 161.2g CO2/Km [2]. With approximately 5,000 ice cream vans roaming the UK [3], 736.5-806 kilograms of carbon dioxide are potentially emitted every kilometre by mobile ice cream units. 

Solar – the new ice cream flavour of the month?

As technology continues to improve, solar-powered vans are becoming increasingly accessible. The benefits of having a solar powered vehicle include reduced carbon emissions and lower consumption costs whilst maintaining the same dessert output as petrol and diesel machines. Carbon emissions from solar charging are completely zero [4] and any excess energy can be sold back to the grid, a much better system than paying for fuel. 

A farmer in Somerset has created a prototype van where the vehicle, freezers, ice cream makers and coffee machine are all powered by solar panels on the van roof [5]. The prototype solar panels are designed to easily fit into electric vehicles, making the carbon free ice cream van dream a possible reality in the coming years. 

ice cream sustainability

Figure 1: Image of an Ice Cream Van at the beach [6].

Can the ice cream industry cool down global warming? 

The EU is doubling-down on harmful refrigeration practices. Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants are significant carbon emitters; one kilogram of HFC is equivalent to the emissions of a car that has travelled 40,000km [7]. 

The ICEGREEN project run by the European Commission’s Environment Agency, aimed to reduce carbon emissions in small stand-alone units such as refrigerators and ice cream machines. Replacing HFCs with other hydrocarbons such as propane, that do not emit large quantities of carbon dioxide [8]. Switching to propane and other non-carbon emitting hydrocarbons has great transferability potential [9], allowing the ice cream industry to work towards net zero without consumers losing out on a summer full of sweet treats on the high street or at the beach.

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[1] https://ice-cream.org/about-the-ice-cream-alliance/#what-is-ica.

[2] https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/average-co2-emissions-from-new-cars-vans-2019#:~:text=The%20market%20share%20of%20petrol,161.2%20g%20CO2%2Fkm

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/bb6CpgR4fJjzYcd1vnp37R/totally-vantastic-six-things-about-ice-cream-vans#:~:text=Still%2C%20there%20are%20now%20just,and%20that%20number%20is%20dwindling.

[4] https://doi.org/10.1109/ITEC.2016.7520273.

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-51533512.

[6] Gavin Allanwood (July, 2019) from Unsplash. Accessed on: 9th May 2024. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/white-and-yellow-soft-ice-cream-van-9mh_kxe8oPQ

[7] https://cinea.ec.europa.eu/news-events/news/cooling-down-sustainable-ice-cream-2020-08-17_en.

[8] https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/life/publicWebsite/project/LIFE18-CCM-IT-001106/greening-the-ice-cream-sector-through-low-gwp-refrigerants-and-innovative-business-model.

[9] https://www.nemox.com/en/icegreen-technologies/impacts/


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