Over the last decade, the unsustainability of the current economic model, based on the so-called take-make-dispose paradigm, has emerged. In particular, the agri-food sector (AFS) has been severely affected by such problems as resource scarcity and food loss and waste generation along the supply chain. In addition, climate change and biodiversity loss have helped to define an imperative paradigm shift towards a circular economy (CE). Recently, with the publication of Sustainable Development Goals, the scientific research examining the adoption of CE models and tools has increased. In this context, the importance of shifting towards a CE has become urgent. Considering the increasing attention paid by academics and practitioners to the topic, there is a need to investigate how the research is analysing the CE applied to the AFS for loss and waste management in a closed-loop perspective. Furthermore, considering the lack of systematization of the knowledge about this issue, this study reviews the literature to offer an overview of the state-of-the-art research and to provide guidelines for future studies on this topic. Two research questions have guided this paper. The first question attempts to provide a descriptive framework of the existing literature on the CE applied to the agri-food supply chain, highlighting the main trends in this research field. The second question aims to facilitate future research streams in a changing socio-economic context. To answer those questions, a systematic literature review has been performed. In this perspective, the Life Cycle Assessment methodology represents the most used tool in order to assess “potential environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product, process or service”. Furthermore, this review highlights that, due to the complexity of the agri-food supply chain, it is almost utopian to define a unique CE model for the whole sector. In addition, it emerges that future researches should be concentrated on the integration of different stages of the supply chain with CE models and tools in order to create a closed-loop agri-food system.
Keywords: sustainability; circular economy; LCA; agro-food supply chain; food waste