Cutting waste in the food preparation sector

My greatest passion is food. I’ve worked with it since I was very young – in cafes, restaurants, and now in the food processing industry. In all that time I have seen how big an issue waste is, but also noticed how its importance isn’t recognised. That means that small changes can make big differences – and we can put them in place now.

My company imports fruit from all over the world and prepares portions in pots to be sold by retailers. This all carries an environmental cost, but they are an effective and increasingly popular way of getting people eating healthy food. So we need to do everything we can to make our operations more effective, and cutting waste is our first step.

To manage our waste, we have to measure it. We can only control what we count. That’s why I review the data we get from the production line and make a weekly report on our waste rate for each of our products. Looking at performance against trends means that we can identify emerging sources of excess waste as soon as they start to happen, and also see how well we have managed to cut back on waste over the long term. The action we take might be something as simple as improving maintenance of certain tools, or maybe a more ambitious plan like supporting employee development and wellbeing. We have had good results so far and are going to keep looking for new initiatives to make improvements.

We work with our supply chain too. In fact, working collaboratively with our producers and other stakeholders improves product specifications and overall quality. These are both factors that have a significant impact on reducing waste. We have a great relationship with suppliers and we are driving down rejection rates for our products.

There are new options for what happens to our waste that we can explore in the future. If we simply hand it over to a contractor, they can deal with it as they wish. They might choose to send it to landfill, where it will decompose and emit methane, a strong greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere. Or, they may choose to burn it to create energy.

But there are better ways to transform peel and spoiled fruit into something that has benefits. One way is to convert it to biogas, which would have a much lower greenhouse impact than methane leaked to the atmosphere. Perhaps we could even use it for combined heat and power at our site – reducing our electricity as well as waste costs. Even better, some of our discarded food could be used as feed for animals, retaining its value as an edible resource, even if not suitable for humans.

We know we have a long way to build our reputation as a sustainable industry, but it is an important factor that contributes to the quality of our products, and we are finding ways to improve that through the principles of the circular economy.

Comments (4)

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How can this be improved?
Calum Irvine
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  • Sounds like you are doing a lot. If you are selling your products to retailers, then you are in their supply chain. Are you working with them to show them what you are doing? Can they benefit from being aware of it?

    Paola Chimenti
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  • Yes, our clients want to be aware of the process we apply internally to manage resources. They also want us to be proactive developing more sustainable ways of waste management as this has a direct impact on their supply chain, as you correctly observed.

    How can this be improved?
    Fadli Fadli
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  • Composting seems the easiest way to re-used organic waste, however there are several solution to re-used the waste (fruit) into more valuable product.

    For example, transform them into fragrance or chemical pectin, cellulose, and flavonoids). These product use as raw material for other industry.