Russell Bacon, portfolio director – Environment at i2i Events Group, organisers of RWM 2015, discusses how food and drink manufacturers can save money by reducing waste.
UK food and drink manufacturers spend an annual £5bn dealing with waste. This cost includes collection; sorting; transport; treatment, and disposal – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Avoiding waste in the manufacturing process is easier than ever, and those companies implementing zero waste policies are seeing the benefits to their bottom lines. What’s more, the vast majority of ‘waste’ still has value, and by recovering that value companies are able to offset their waste management costs.
Some best practice examples will be shared at this year’s RWM show, Europe’s largest and best-established event for resource efficiency and waste management, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham from 15 – 17 September.
For example, on 17 September, the Circular Economy Connect Theatre at RWM 2015 will be hosting a panel debate – A fresh look at food waste: Where have the greatest cuts been made and how do we now eradicate wastage from farm to fork and beyond?
Panellists include Mark Varney, director of Food at FareShare; Richard Laxton, sustainability manager at Arla Foods, and Dr Liz Goodwin, chief executive officer of WRAP.
The award-winning company, bio-bean has industrialised the process of recycling waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels.
Waste coffee grounds pass through a complex array of machinery to remove contamination, lower moisture content and create coffee derived biomass pellets. Bio-bean CEO, Arthur Kay will be speaking at this year’s RWM event, talking about his experience of working wisely with wastes.
Sharing advice about reducing food waste is in everyone’s interest, since the environmental and economic savings benefit everyone in the food chain, from farmers to consumers.
Fortunately, reducing waste isn’t rocket science, and by monitoring processes to identify where waste is being produced, managers and operational staff can introduce small changes that have big effects.
Following the ‘waste hierarchy’
Telemetry systems are being introduced in many manufacturing processes to inform managers about the leaks in their processes.
By measuring waste arising down to line and even shift level, it is possible to track exactly where and why waste is being generated. From there, interventions can be made that reduce waste at source.
Such interventions might include additional staff training, for example, or the replacement of cutters to reduce damage to produce.
Unavoidable waste can then be separated according to the material. Keeping materials separated at source is the best way to maximise the value of those resources, since recyclers are looking for ‘clean’ batches of materials that can be reprocessed easily.
Lineside recycling is often the most efficient way to collect materials for recycling. This involves placing separate containers for waste materials at the point in the manufacturing line where they are produced.
Staff can be trained to ensure that containers only contain certain materials, which can then be bulked up and sold to reprocessors.
Uncontaminated (dry) paper and card; metals; certain plastics, and most food wastes can be recycled into something of value, so it is worth looking closely at the materials being disposed of from each site to determine which containers to place where.
Some food waste will be fit for human consumption and can be redistributed by local charities. Food waste unfit for human consumption may still be suitable as animal feed, and there are a number of companies operating throughout the UK, including SugaRich that keep food in the food chain this way.
Finally, any foodstuff that cannot be fed to animals can be used to generate renewable energy. There is ample capacity in the UK’s anaerobic digestion infrastructure, and the benefits of this approach are numerous, including vastly reduced greenhouse gases and contributing to the UK’s renewable power supply.
Any residual waste, such as floor sweepings, which cannot be recycled or used as a feedstock for anaerobic digestion, can be converted into refuse derived fuel and used to replace fossil fuels in power stations.
Manufacturers interested in anaerobic digestion and other energy recovery processes will find all the UK’s main suppliers under one roof at RWM 2015. Key exhibition areas include Recycling and Reprocessing, Energy from Waste, Machinery and Equipment, and Professional Services.
RWM 2015 is free to attend
With landfill becoming an increasingly expensive option, it makes excellent business sense to explore the alternatives.
Europe’s largest event for the recycling and waste management sector, RWM 2015 will be taking place from 15 – 17 September at the NEC in Birmingham.
The exhibition space will feature more than 700 businesses that work with waste, from consultants to reprocessors and even end-users of recycled products.
The packed conference schedule includes opportunities to learn from businesses that have implemented best practice zero waste processes.