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Want more? Waste not

19 July 2011

It is commercial realities – not legislation – which are driving sustainability and waste improvements for the food industry, says Biffa’s product marketing manager Peter Pellegrini

The pressure and desire for the food industry to reduce its waste is increasing due to legislation, rising costs and consumer and customer demand.

But there is more to it than simply meeting obligations and safeguarding against rising landfill costs, there is a huge opportunity out there to realise the true value of waste. The term ‘waste’ itself is becoming redundant as new uses for our materials – from new materials to renewable energy – develop.

Gone are the days when people did very little in the way of recycling. Most waste materials can be recycled – it’s just a matter of markets developing to the point where it is commercially viable. And the drive amongst food manufacturers towards achieving the elusive ‘zero waste to landfill’ is more prominent than ever before.

Big businesses are already showing their customers they are committed to sustainable practices, and customers are coming to expect it from every business they come into contact with. But how do they do it?

Waste is complex: there is no one size fits all solution for all businesses. You need experts who understand your waste – what can be recycled and how to get the most value from it – and who understand your business and how to make the process as simple as possible leaving you to concentrate on running your business.

A tailored solution following a waste audit of your business will mean your needs are met and as much waste as possible is diverted from landfill. It safeguards you against landfill tax increases, reduces your environmental impact and satisfies the demands of your customers and consumers.

Big on the agenda at the moment is the matter of food waste. And with an estimated 15 million tonnes of food waste thrown away by the UK each year – half of which comes from businesses through food production, food preparation waste or left-overs – it’s not hard to see why.

Currently much of that food waste ends up in landfill, and as it decomposes it gives off methane, a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. However it’s no secret that methane burns very well as a fuel. So wouldn’t it make sense to capture it and use it to create green energy? That’s exactly what our rapidly growing anaerobic digestion (AD) infrastructure is all about: turning waste food into green energy.

In fact Biffa has recently opened the UK’s first ‘super’ AD plant at Cannock, Staffordshire. It will take up to 120,000 tonnes of food waste every year, much of it waste from the food industry which would traditionally have ended up in landfill. The facility is part of a network of AD plants Biffa is looking to build, helping businesses to recycle more whilst supporting the development of renewable energy.

What’s brilliant about this facility is that it can take packaged food and separate it which makes it even easier for businesses to recycle, and where possible the packaging materials are recycled too. Combined with Biffa’s business waste collection services, it is an easy way to make a real difference.

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