Waste probe pinpoints £404M savings potential

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Recycling

Companies do not do enough about waste prevention, says WRAP
Companies do not do enough about waste prevention, says WRAP
Food firms could save £404M in lost sales by cracking down on food and packaging waste, a study commissioned by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates.

Opportunities for resource efficiency in the food and drink sector​ is based on a series of waste reviews conducted between January and September 2009. The reviews took place at 13 food and drink factories operated by Food and Drink Federation (FDF) members.

Based on an average 10% saving pinpointed by the study, equating to participants saving 134,150t of waste worth £75.3M, the entire food industry could save £404M from waste reduction, the report claims.

The research focused on analysing individual product lines; spillage allowances; raw material packaging and waste management. WRAP concluded that most companies appeared to be on course to fulfil their commitment to the FDF’s ‘Five-fold Ambition’ of sending zero waste to landfill by 2015.

However, Estelle Herszenhorn, WRAP programme area manager for food and drink: production and distribution, said: “Companies have made massive strides in diverting waste from landfill, but part of the problem is waste prevention, which is trickier.”

Waste reduction culture

Tackling waste would have to be embedded into company culture, rather than being the responsibility of a few individuals, and businesses would have to sharpen up on data capture and precise targets.

Common stumbling blocks included lack of contingency planning to prevent ‘rework’ or waste food being produced and reliance on traditional small packaging units, even for large batches of ingredients.

In the case of rework, WRAP said the continuous nature of production lines commonly used in food manufacturing meant lines could not be readily switched off when problems arose. A focus on efficiency, rather than production effectiveness, trying to run every operation at full speed rather than balancing the throughput of each operation to ensure smooth running of lines, was a common mistake.

And acceptance of waste arising from poor line set up was a frequent problem on short production runs, where the payback for getting it right was considered to be insignificant. The use of ‘single-trip’ packaging, particularly for inbound goods, and failure to measure or challenge raw material waste were other areas for improvement.

Lean manufacturing

The report’s key recommendation was the dissemination of lean manufacturing good practice through a series of workshops involving representatives of the food industry.

WRAP aimed to boost its support for food manufacturers following the study’s publication, said Herszenhorn. “At a manufacturing site level we are opening up waste prevention reviews to manufacturers across the supply chain. This report shows a fresh pair of eyes and cross-industry expertise is essential in reducing food waste​.”

WRAP has commissioned grocery industry think tank IGD to build on the report by developing a clear action plan and contacts for advice and guidance. It also plans to extend efforts to map supply chains for key product categories to identify further waste reduction opportunities.

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