Agency tackles problem of food waste

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Food waste, Waste, Recycling

In a bid to help UK companies meet food waste disposal targets, the
Yorkshire regional government has launched a project to band
smaller manufacturers together to make collection less costly and
more efficient.

The project could also help food makers meet the requirements laid down by the EU's animal by products (ABP)regulation. The regulation prohibits the disposal of animal by-products to landfill. Instead they must be treatedat an approved rendering, incinerator, biogas or composting plant. The law also allows animal by- products to be reprocessed into animal feed or for making ingredients for the food orpharmaceutical industries.

The test project, which is funded by the regional government and the EU, targets the cluster offood manufacturers in South Yorkshire. The project is being run by Recycling Action Yorkshire (RAY),a regional government agency.

Alex Hargreaves, RAY's food project manager says research shows that food and drink businesses in Yorkshire could save up to £1,000 per full time employeewhile at the same time gaining improved process efficiency and better waste management.

"In food and drink companies, the true cost of waste is typically four to five per cent ofturnover,"​ he stated yesterday. "It may not sound like much, but in many cases, it is possible to reduce waste costs by 20 and even up to 30 per cent."

South Yorkshire was chosen for the trial after research in 2005 showed that manufacturers in theregion produced a high level of food waste compared to other areas. RAY wants about 20 to 30 companies to jointhe project.

"We have had comments from food companies in the past that they are keen to recycle their waste but have found it hard to arrangecollections,"​ Hargreaves stated. "The levels from each individual company can be small enough to prevent it from being economically viable."

Companies that become part of the project will be given a free review to identify ways to reduce waste,and opportunities for recycling and recovery. Research produced for the project found that 66,000 tonnes per year of material is needlessly sent to landfill by the Yorkshire foodindustry.

The project is funded by Yorkshire Forward and is being run in partnership with Envirowise.

If the test is successful, RAY plans to extend the project further across the Yorkshire and Humber region.A meeting is being held 11 October for companies that want to take part in the project.

From January 2006, all UK food catering, manufacturing and retail food companies must treat allfood waste, including dairy products, that contain or has been in contact with raw meat.

A survey of food companies in Yorkshire and Humberside last year found that about 80 per cent didnot recycle their food waste. Of those that did, fewer than three per cent use innovative techniques in disposal processing, according to theYorkshire Forward Centres of Industrial Collaboration (CICs).

UK-based environmental agency Envirowise produced research last year estimating that food manufacturers could save up to £1,000 per employee by using more effective waste managementtechniques.

With a gross output of £65.7 billion, the food and drink business is one of the largest sectors in UKindustry, accounting for 17 per cent of manufacturing GDP. It has been subjected to various EU and UK laws preventing excessive waste, water use andemissions. Failure to follow the law can cost companies millions of euros in fines.

Envirowise claims that by sticking to the legislation and minimising wastage, companies can reclaim about 4.5 per cent of annual turnover that is lost everyyear on waste collection.

The UK's food and drink sector produces 14 per cent of the waste from all the sectors the EnvironmentalAgency regulates, the second biggest producer after fuel and power.

It produced about two and a half million tonnes of waste in 2005, almost all of which was non-hazardous.The sector recovers 70 per cent of its waste, above average for all the regulated sectors, Environwise stated.

Thirteen food and drink businesses received large fines for environmental offences in 2004. About 305 food and drink plant sites are now covered by the environmental legislation, many for the firsttime in 2005, the agency noted.

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