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Posts Tagged ‘Food Waste’

The festive period can often be a time for overindulgence, and I am sure anyone who ventures anywhere near their local shops on the weekend before Christmas would agree with me. Overindulging every now and then is something that I think everyone will admit to doing, especially over Christmas when you might well have a large meal of roast turkey and all the trimmings. This is always a particularly enjoyable meal; however, if you think about the long term impacts of eating so much food in such a short space of time, you might actually stop and consider the benefits of reducing your consumption for that one meal. When you reduce your consumption, you can often end up having food left over that can then feed you for the next few days in the form of sandwiches or curry. Our Love Food Hate Waste campaign is able to provide you with some further ideas about what to do with any left over turkey, but the idea of using this food over a longer period of time shows a good example of increasing resource efficiency.

Promoting resource efficiency is something that is applicable to your business model as well as how you might choose to live your life because it can lead to cost savings. Resource efficiency is all about managing raw materials, energy and water in order to minimise waste and thereby reduce cost. Another reason why you would want to increase the resource efficiency of your business is because it can help increase the overall sustainability of your business. Not only does minimising waste output have significant environmental benefits, but there are also clear economic incentives as the costs associated with waste disposal will be minimised. Research has shown that there is the potential to save up to 4.5% of your annual turnover by reducing costs associated with landfill tax. Reducing the quantity of waste that your business generates can lead to increased business efficiencies as you gain a greater understanding of your business processes and this can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.

There are clearly a number of advantages associated with improving resource efficiencies in business and I will now go on to explain how you can implement changes that will lead to improved resource efficiencies. The first thing that your organisation should do, is to undertake a waste review to see exactly where waste is being created in the first place, and therefore what actions can be taken to reduce this. These reviews can either be done internally, or you can call on organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland who are able to offer businesses of all sizes free advice. When making changes to your business it is important not only to involve your staff, and work with them, but also to consider your entire supply chain. This includes working with your suppliers and your customers so as to examine the true costs associated with waste, and also to help promote change amongst others. It is important to set realistic targets. Remember to start small and grow from there, it is worth remembering that there are numerous simple measures that you can implement before trying a large change. Many small successes are greater than one large project that perhaps does not work as well.

Over the festive period, there are a number of steps that businesses can take to improve their resource efficiencies. These can be simple steps such as anticipating that there might not be as many people in your workplace and therefore remember to get fewer supplies, particularly if the items have a short shelf life or these can be larger steps such as choosing to send out e-cards instead of cards. By examining what resources come into your workplace, it is possible to reduce what comes in and therefore create a more efficient, sustainable workplace and a more profitable new year.

I hope you have a very resourceful, Christmas and an efficient New Year.

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One of the statements that we often hear people make is ‘I don’t create any waste’, and as much as it would great if this were true, it obviously isn’t otherwise we wouldn’t be in the situation that we find ourselves in today.  This statement is the result of people not understanding what waste really is and mistakenly thinking that generating waste is part of everyday life and something that is beyond our control. 

We all create waste (some more than others) but what we don’t always realise is the cumulative impact of our waste altogether.  If one person thinks as they put in the bin, ‘it’s only a half a loaf of bread’ here and ‘it’s only one glass bottle’ there then by the time everyone in Scotland thinks like that you are already talking about approximately 5 million half loaves of bread and 5 million glass bottles!

There are always steps we can take reduce this waste and ideally eliminate it all together.  Whether this is by reducing food waste, reducing the amount of packaging you purchase, reducing the amount of unwanted mail you receive through your door and by making sure that if the materials you do use can’t be reused, you recycle them at every opportunity. 

The power of campaigning is to bring individuals together to think as one and to take action.  A couple of excellent recent examples are Plastiki, the boat made from 12,500 plastic bottles, which completed its 8,000 mile journey by arriving in Sydney last week.  The purpose was to highlight the amount of plastic waste in the oceans; one area called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be about twice the size of Texas, while plastic waste is also estimated to kill 1.5 million marine animals each year.  At the other end of the scale pupils from a primary school in London built a 7ft paper tree using junk mail to highlight all the unwanted mail their families receive in the post.  As over a third of all direct mail is discarded unopened (Direct Mail Information Service 2006), we shouldn’t just accept this is the way it is but do something about it.  As you can see by joining together and looking at the bigger picture you get a greater sense of how one person, one family or one business can play their part.

Join forces and make yourself heard

If you’re having trouble convincing the decision makers in your workplace that you should be recycling, why noy try a bit of campaigning of your own?  You could ask colleagues to save up over the course of a week all of the materials they use which could be recycled so you have a visible picture of all the resources that are being wasted.

Whatever it is you decide to do, don’t be fooled into thinking that one person or one small business won’t make an impact or make a difference, as it most certainly will.

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When I first came to KSB and started working on the Waste Aware Business campaign it didn’t take long to realise that one of the key areas of concern for recycling in Scotland is the amount of waste that is sent to landfill because there is nowhere else for it to go.

In other words, businesses might try to recycle all their waste but fail because, in some cases, there just wasn’t a recycling option.

Fortunately the number of materials that can’t be recycled is small. It generally applies to very hazardous waste or materials for which there is no viable processing option to recover the value from the original material. It’s usually tiny bits of waste that ultimately only amount to just a few percent of waste arisings overall.

However, imagine my frustration when I realised that tonnes and tonnes of a particular waste was reaching landfill despite the fact it should theoretically be easily transformed into a valuable and useful material and what’s more which causes immense damage in landfill due to the gas it emits when it breaks down anaerobically? Just imagine…

Very Frustrated

Very Frustrated

And, as if you hadn’t already guessed from the more-than-obvious clue in the title, the material I’m talking about is:

organics

It’s now pretty easy for businesses throughout Scotland to obtain a reasonably priced recycling service for most of the common waste materials such as paper, cardboard, cans and glass. In fact I would go further and argue that most waste materials now have an outlet to recover their value. Even oily rags which was traditionally very difficult to re-process.

However, until fairly recently the idea of recovering organic waste was left to householders with veg patches or the odd eco-hotel with too much garden space.

It's all a matter of taste

It's all a matter of taste

Ok, it might be stretching the category of organics slightly to include recycled human waste (fortunately the water companies tend to deal with that out of our sight) but you get the idea – people think of organic matter as best left hidden.

Not any more. From garden matter to food waste, it is now possible to recycle (i.e. compost) business organic waste with the help of new services springing up throughout Scotland.

Smaller businesses can use the help of the Compost Doctors who will advise you on how you might avoid sending food waste to landfill by using a composter on-site.

Larger businesses in certain areas can now use collection services who operate the same way as traditional recycling services and come to your business with a truck to regularly collect the waste from the bins, which they often provide.

One such service (there are many but this is one I know well) is Cyrenians Organics Recycling Enterprise. We heard about them when their manager, Luca Pornaro contacted us looking for some assistance with their branding, which is a service we offer (at a fairly low cost) to help boost recycling companies.

CORE

I actually suggested the name CORE and an apple core logo and was pleased when they got chosen from the range of options. Mind you that was extent of my input. My colleague then worked to get all the other bits and pieces together. Other organisations were involved as well – the project was part funded by WRAP.

Anyway, I know from first hand experience (I was at an event where businesses mentioned the service) that businesses in the Edinburgh and Lothians area are really pleased with the service CORE offer. It seems such a sensible solution to the problem of food waste as it produces a PAS100 certified compost (which basically means it can safely be sold for agricultural use). It is also competitively priced compared to landfill services.

As you will see if you click the picture above, Cyrenians help disadvantaged people from all walks of life, so there is a double benefit to their business.

Anyway, other businesses do offer organics recycling and I know of several that are about to start. So this is a young industry, but its potential is huge.

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In an ideal world it would surely be possible to transport fruit and vegetables, most of which have pretty decent natural packaging, without protecting them further by wrapping them in cardboard and plastic and putting them in fruit shaped trays.

However we don’t live in an ideal world and people quite justifiably expect their fruit and vegetables to reach their homes unbruised.

It's not just bananas that get bruised

It's not just bananas that get bruised

Some of my colleagues at Waste Aware Scotland have developed a campaign called Positive Package which shows some of the benefits of packaging and why we do, in certain circumstances, rely on it.

Two of our partner organisations (Wrap and Envirowise) have announced a joint initiative to measure the packaging on 11 types of fruit and vegetables to assess the impact of the packaging throughout the supply chain and look for ways to improve the situation.

Without wanting to pre-empt their findings my initial thoughts are that packaging reduction should be possible throughout the supply chain for all food types. However it will require a real effort on the part of the people that produce the packaging, buy the packaging and ultimately accept the packaging (that’s us) to ensure it is truly minimised.

Coverage on the initiative from Packaging News can be found here.

Independent advice for consumers (from Which?) on reducing packaging can be found here and information on our work with retailers on the issue (as part of our Love Food Hate Waste campaign) can be found here.

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Two stories caught my eye today (and have been duly posted on WAB news), both relating to compost.

Compost is a great way to deal with food waste

Compost is a great way to deal with food waste

The first story is that Scotland now has the UK’s largest vertical composting facility. Keenan Recycling in Aberdeenshire is expanding to allow it to process an additional 20,000 tonnes of mostly kitchen waste each year. This means that households without the space or inclination to compost their own waste can now rest easy that the local authority (Aberdeen City Council) will begin to roll out food waste collections to be sent to Keenan Recycling for processing into high grade compost.

Some more info on the process:

The new VCU in-vessel composting system is capable of converting 20,000 tonnes per annum of category 3 food waste, fish waste and commingled food/green waste into high value compost rich in plant nutrients. The process is similar to slow-cooking but is dependant upon aerobic microbial activity. No other heat source is required or allowed. If you have any of the waste types listed above you can reduce costs by having us recycle it rather than paying landfill costs and taxes. It is the environmentally friendly cost effective way to deal with food waste.

The second story, relates to how the end product can be used. As detailed on the CRNS news page:

Trials, conducted by Forestry Commission Scotland in partnership with WRAP, are designed to determine the commercial benefits of using quality compost in applications that range from soil improvement through to the establishment of woodland and biomass crops on brownfield land.

So, on the one hand, we have people making it their business to generate compost from household and commercial food waste and, on the other, we have people looking into what the best applications for the compost might be.

It’s an interesting time for large scale composting in Scotland. Will food waste in landfill be a thing of the past soon? Let’s hope so.

Don’t forget, if you want to compost your own food waste in your garden or allotment, you can apply for a discounted compost bin through our sister campaign. Click here for details.

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