According to ReFood, 20% of the 90Mt food wasted across the EU each year is created during manufacture, at a total disposal cost of over £6bn. However, Philip Simpson, commercial director of ReFood, believes this figure could be easily reduced, with a corresponding impact on companies’ bottom lines.
Simply by improving the planning, portioning, management and production in the food supply-chain, as well as making use of waste produced in other ways, Simpson believes firms could make a huge difference.
Just 36% would send waste to landfill
Just 36% of respondents to the state-of-the-industry survey, published by our sister title Food Manufacture magazine last month (July) claimed their companies would be sending zero waste to landfill by 2015. Among various targets set under the Food and Drink Federation’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition, there is one to send zero food and packaging waste to landfill by 2015 at the latest.
“The waste [food manufacturers] generate amounts to a vast volume and reducing this figure is a key industry goal,” said Simpson. “Food waste is a valuable resource and one we shouldn’t simply squander. There are so many different uses for it, therefore greater planning and consideration of alternative disposal strategies, makes commercial sense.”
With landfill tax currently levied at £80/t, there is a big incentive to recycle food waste, added Simpson. “Diverting food waste from landfill can save manufacturers up to 45% on their waste costs.”
To assist the food industry in reducing food waste, ReFood recently launched its Vision 2020 roadmap to deliver zero food waste to landfill. The report recommends a variety of strategies to embrace sustainable alternatives, encourage behavioural change and showcase best practice examples from across the food manufacturing sector.
Tackle the issue
“As well as highlighting how we can tackle the issue on an industry-wide level, insight from the report identifies a number of specific factors behind the sector’s rising waste figure,” said Simpson. “Overweight products; trimmings, such as crusts or tomato ends; technical errors; contamination of machinery; and inconsistency within processes used, such as cooking times and temperature all seem to be contributing to the high generation of food waste.”
While large manufacturers were making progress in this field, smaller firms still had some way to go, he added.
“Embracing a more strategic waste management approach and reducing waste across the sector is, however, relatively straightforward,” he said. Simpson cited Kent-based ready meal manufacturer Ferndale Foods, which last year cut its waste disposal costs by 16%.
Food manufacturing organisations can calculate how much energy and fertiliser their waste could produce, as well as carbon dioxide savings, at ReFood’s website.