The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste – AIP training course

As a part of the Australian Institute of Packaging’s commitment to the National Food Waste Strategy the Institute has developed a new half-day training course on The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste. The first course will be held on the 21 March in Melbourne, Victoria with all of industry invited to attend.

This course is ideally suited to packaging technologists, designers, engineers, marketers, production and procurement managers and for industries across the food supply chain (farm to fork).

Karli Verghese FAIP, Principal Research Fellow, Industrial Design program School of Design, RMIT University, Melbourne, will present the course.

Course objectives:

  • Understanding of where and why food loss and waste occurs.
  • Understanding the role of packaging in minimising loss through the supply chain and at the household level.
  • Understanding of key packaging design criteria to minimise food loss/waste.
  • Appreciation of the environmental life cycle profile of food, packaging and food waste.

 

South Melbourne Market wins environmental award

The South Melbourne Market’s work to recycle tonnes of food, vegetable and other waste, and other sustainable practices is cutting business costs and greenhouses gas emissions.

The market, won the Institute of Public Affairs Australia’s Victorian Environmental Sustainability Award, sponsored by Sustainability Victoria in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

“As community expectations about environmental sustainability grows and waste disposal costs rise, it’s clear that the South Melbourne’s market is hitting the mark on both counts,” Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said.

“The South Melbourne Market’s comprehensive program could be applied to other markets and shopping centres, not just in Melbourne, but around Australia,” Krpan said.

“The City of Port Phillip, market management and the businesses that operate there are doing a great job to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping vulnerable people in the community.”

The market processed around 400 cubic metres of green waste in 2016/17 (equivalent to more than 22 garbage trucks) through a worm farm creating Market Magic, a mix of worm poo and mushroom compost which is sold at the market.

The market also has a fast-working Gaia recycling unit which turns 8.4 tonnes of food and other waste into compost, also sold at the market, every week. Over a year, the weight recycled is equivalent to 20 Melbourne trams.

Approximately 10,800 litres of oil was collected from the Market in 2016-17. Most is turned into biodiesel which is used in the vehicles which collect it.

New advocacy group addressing food waste in Australia

New advocacy group, the Australian Food Cold Chain Council, aims to address food wastage by showing food producers, logistics operators, supermarkets and consumers the cost of inaction.

The Federal Government estimates that wastage across the Australian food cold chain costs the economy $20 billion each year. In November 2017, the Department of the Environment and Energy released the National Food Waste Strategy, a document outlining the impact – both economic and societal – of food wastage, and what action the Government will take to tackle the issue and halve wastage by 2030.

One group already aware of the urgency of the problem is the Australian Food Cold Chain Council (AFCCC), an advocacy group launched by logistics professionals in August dedicated to spreading knowledge about food wastage, improving compliance and refining legislation, With senior figures at major Australian refrigeration, manufacturing and transport companies as founding members, the AFCCC aims to be part of the solution to Australia’s food waste problem.

“We want to change the industry for the better,” said Mark Mitchell, chair of the AFCCC and managing director of cold storage and transport specialist Supercool Asia Pacific.

The AFCCC is targeting the middle section of the cold food chain, which the Government estimates accounts for almost a third of the $20 billion lost annually. “Food moving from the farm to the consumer – in transport and in storage – accounts for $6.4 billion in losses annually,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there is a tendency for businesses in refrigerated transport and storage to be price driven, rather than quality driven. The by-product of this is wastage, a lack of compliance and a disregard for correct procedures.”

Mitchell pointed out that the industry has been ripe for a process overhaul for some time, but it is increasing consumer interest in companies’ “triple bottom lines” – or their social and environmental impact, not only financial performance – that has created the perfect conditions for him and other industry veterans to take action.

“We’ve been trying to do things ‘better’ for many years, while trying to appeal to businesses that are driven by the dollar to step up,” he said. “It’s very hard to ask companies to pick up their quality games when everyone is focusing on delivering the cheapest product.

“In recent times, society, consumers, governments – everyone who lives on the planet – they have realised that we can’t keep abusing the environment like we have been. With this shift in focus, we can encourage refrigerated logistics businesses to do the job properly, resulting in a cold chain that produces less wastage and fewer emissions, while improving food safety and quality for consumers.”

The cost of waste 

Mitchell said that the “cost” of discarded food does not only represent the price paid for it by the consumer, it is calculated based on the water, fuel and human resources it took to get it from the paddock to the plate – though food waste does not occur only at the end of the supply chain.

“You can’t just blame the consumer food wastage. This is 25 per cent of the problem, the other 75 per cent of food wastage happens upstream in the supply chain,” he said.

‘Temperature abuse’ – the failure to maintain transported and stored food items within recommended temperature ranges – is rampant in Australia, Mitchell explained. At worst, it can compromise food safety, though most consumers will have unknowingly fallen victim.

“We see a lot of temperature abuse, and it’s something that affects all of us on a daily basis,” he added.

“That pack of sausages that lasted two weeks in the fridge last time you bought it – it only lasted three or four days this time due to a lack of care in the cold chain.

One of our priorities will be to apply pressure in industry and in government to make sure the existing Australian standards for cold-chain food handling are properly followed.”

A more compliant cold chain – free from temperature and hygiene abuse
– will mean that food lasts longer on supermarket shelves and longer in the family fridge, Mitchell explained.

According to Mitchell, in order to improve Australia’s “far from perfect” track record in efficient, farm-to-plate cold-food handling, collaboration between government, industry associations, food handlers and suppliers will be crucial.

“There’s lots of rhetoric about commitments to food waste reduction and cold chain compliance, but little, if nothing, is being done at any level about improving the cold chain, and ensuring that standards are followed,” he said.

“Nearly 40 per cent of all the food we produce in the world is never eaten. Consider that the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found in 2013 that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night – there’s a whole food wastage agenda to fix globally.”

Future focus

The 2017 Hunger Report prepared by Australian non-profit Food Bank found that food insecurity is a growing concern locally, which Mark thinks many Australians would find surprising. It reported that 3.6 million Australians had experienced food insecurity within 12 months of being surveyed – and pressure on food charities is increasing by 10 per cent each year.

“Our focus on making the cold chain better essentially comes at the task from two perspectives – reducing the environmental impact of food wastage through CO2 emissions, and tackling hunger,” said Mitchell. “If we want to feed the globe, we’re going to need to develop and maintain highly efficient refrigeration systems in the cold chain.”

He added that The World Health Organization’s How to feed the world in 2050 report, produced in 2009, projected that if global food wastage continues at its current rate, there will not be enough to feed the world’s population by 2050.

“We produce enough food for 10 billion people right now, though there are only seven billion of us,” said Mitchell. “We have to fix this – I don’t want my great grandchildren living in an environment where there’s not enough food on the shelf.”

Josh Frydenberg, the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy, has invited the AFCCC to sit on the steering committee shaping and implementing the policies that will support the National Food Waste Strategy. “We will help the Federal Government as much as we can,” said Mitchell. “For us, a major priority will be establishing a decent code of practice for the carriage of chilled and fresh produce, a document that the industry is missing.

“While most of the developed world is on the cusp on taking initiatives to stem food wastage, at present it’s more talk than action. I think Frydenberg is to be congratulated on having developed a formal, national food waste reduction strategy – it’s a little bit visionary.”

The AFCCC has entered into a partnership with the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad), with the groups working together to revise and rewrite the code of practice for the road transportation of fresh product, a “long overdue” update, according to Mitchell. “The code of practice that is in place currently was a voluntary guide put together by the now-defunct Australian United Fresh Transport Advisory Council,” he said. “We’re going to review and rewrite the document, so that it can support legal implementation.”

The AFCCC is also keen to raise industry awareness of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in ambient and cold food supply chains, with a view to eventually developing an accreditation program.

“Very few trucks or loading docks in Australia have temperature monitoring, even though the technology is available,” said Mitchell. “The nation’s cold chain compliance is behind other developed nations, and Europe is leading the way. We want to spread the word about the HACCP principles, to show businesses how to improve food safety and gain better control over their supply chain.”

After that, he said, the end goal is to get every stakeholder carrying food for Australian consumers involved in an accreditation program – through a common desire to do better, ideally, rather than through fear of legal reproach. “We believe there’s a better way to go about bringing in better standards than by enforcing strict legislation – there are already more than enough rules to follow in Australia,” he said.

“We want this to be about doing the right thing, for the right reasons – and it won’t hurt companies’ triple bottom lines when consumers see the steps they’re taking to help end hunger, reduce their impact on the environment and maintain quality and food safety.”

Mitchell hopes that the coming years will see a shift in the way Australia’s cold chain, retailers and consumers think about the food they buy, eat and discard.

“It is my wish and the AFCCC’s wish to enable and empower the logistics industry, food producers, supermarkets and all other stakeholders to voluntarily do some heavy lifting to bring about a compliant, quality cold-chain and supply environment,” he said.

Unilever calls for accelerated industry action on packaging waste

Unilever has called for the consumer goods industry to step-up its efforts to tackle the mounting challenge of ocean plastic waste and create a circular economy for plastics.

One year after Unilever made its industry-leading commitment to ensure 100 per cent of its plastic packaging was fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, CEO Paul Polman welcomed news that 10 companies have made similar pledges.

He urged more to step forward to accelerate the industry’s progress towards the circular economy and address plastic leakage into the world’s natural systems including waterways and oceans.

Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has found that the equivalent of one dumper truck’s worth of plastic enters the oceans every minute, and by 2050 it forecasts there could be more plastic (by weight) in the ocean than fish. Today, only 14 per cent of plastic packaging gets collected for recycling.

Polman said: “It is welcome news that many other major companies are making their own commitments to address ocean plastic waste. Yet as a consumer goods industry, we need to go much further, much faster, in addressing the challenge of single use plastics by leading a transition away from the linear take-make-dispose model of consumption, to one which is truly circular by design.”

Unilever believes there are four key actions the consumer goods industry should take to create the systemic change required and accelerate the transition to a circular economy:

For companies to invest in innovation towards new delivery models that promote reuse.

For more companies to commit to 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 and set stretching targets for using post-consumer recycled content.

For a Global Plastics Protocol setting common agreed definitions and industry standards on what materials are put into the marketplace, to ensure our packaging is compatible with existing and cost-effective recycling infrastructures.

For companies to engage positively in policy discussions with governments on the need for improvements to waste management infrastructure, including the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes.

Unilever has made good progress on reducing its waste footprint. Since 2010, the waste associated with the disposal of its products has decreased by 28 per cent and the weight of its packaging has reduced by 15 per cent. The company also stopped sending non-hazardous waste to landfill from its manufacturing sites in 2015.

Alongside its commitment to 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025, Unilever pledged to source 25 per cent of its resin from post-consumer recycled content by 2025, and to publish its full plastics palette before 2020.

In 2017, the company announced it was making good progress on identifying a technical solution to recycling multi-layered sachets through its Creasolv technology, for which a pilot plant in Indonesia is currently being built to assess its commercial viability. We intend to make this technology open source and would hope to scale it with industry partners, so others – including our competitors – can use it.

WA to educate retailers, consumers ahead of plastic bag ban

With Western Australia’s ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags just five months away, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is holding workshops to help people change the way they shop and do business.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson is urging the community to take advantage of the workshops – being held across Perth and regional WA – which are aimed at helping plastic bag suppliers, retailers and consumers prepare for and comply with the ban.

From July 1, retailers can no longer supply lightweight single-use plastic bags to their customers.

In the lead-up to the ban, retailers are being encouraged to stop ordering plastic bags which will be part of the ban, think about alternatives to plastic bags and prepare staff to help customers who are unware of or do not support the ban.

Consumers are encouraged to consider carrying reusable shopping bags, look at alternatives for the single-use plastic bags used around their homes and support retailers and staff upholding the law by not supplying single-use bags.

Workshops will be held across the metropolitan region – Perth, Connolly, Stirling, Armadale, Fremantle, Midland and Mandurah and in regional centres – Karratha, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, Narrogin, Albany, Geraldton, Broome and Port Hedland.

 

 

Foodbank calls for Food Insecurity strategy

Hunger relief organisation Foodbank is also calling on the Federal Government to develop a National Food Insecurity Strategy, to ensure both food insecurity and food waste are addressed.

The call comes as Australia’s first-ever National Food Waste Strategy is set to be launched today. While Foodbank welcomes this as a step towards providing long-term solutions to the $20 billion food waste problem, the organisation wants more attention to be also given to the issue of food security.

“A food waste strategy is long-overdue, but we are concerned that it appears to lack the necessary funding to ensure rapid implementation. Nevertheless, it is a great first step in reducing the amount of perfectly edible food that is wasted, particularly given this country’s worrying food insecurity problem,” Foodbank CEO, Brianna Casey said.

The latest Foodbank Hunger Report revealed that a shocking 3.6 million Australians (15% of the population) were food insecure, meaning they had experienced uncertainty around where their next meal was coming from in the last 12 months – and they are not who you’d think. Almost half of food insecure Australians are employed with 2 in 5 of these households being families with dependent children.

“The food supply and demand equation is entirely out of balance in Australia, not helped at all by the fact that we are wasting staggering amounts of food,” Ms Casey said. “How can it be that we produce enough food in Australia to feed approximately 60 million people, yet 3.6 million Australians were food insecure last year?”

Foodbank argues that the issue is not so much that there is not enough food, but that the food isn’t getting to the right places, in the right time, to help address food insecurity and avoid waste. As such, Foodbank is calling on the Federal Government to complement its National Food Waste Strategy with a whole-of-government strategy to address Australia’s growing food insecurity crisis.

To combat hunger in Australia, Foodbank works closely with farmers, manufacturers, and retailers, to source fresh and manufactured foods for vulnerable Australians in need. The farm sector generously donates large volumes of fresh produce each year, with last financial year’s donations including:

  • 112,000 kilograms of unprocessed and manufactured rice and grain products,
  • 1.2 million litres of fresh milk,
  • 196,000 kilograms of meat,
  • 5.8 million kilograms of fruit and vegetables, and
  • 112,000 kilograms of eggs.

“Only one day out from National Agriculture Day, it is important that our farmers across the country know that the entire supply chain will be working together to ensure the wonderful, fresh produce they work so hard to grow will not be wasted,” Ms Casey said.

“Farmers right across Australia are already donating huge volumes of fresh produce to Foodbank, and we’re not just talking about the produce that doesn’t meet cosmetic standards,” Ms Casey said.  “Many farmers are regularly donating first-grade produce to Foodbank to help families, just like their own, who are doing it tough right now.

“We are so grateful to our farm sector and the food and grocery industry for their ongoing commitment to helping everyday Australians who are going through tough times, helping Foodbank tackle both food insecurity and food waste,” she said.

The missing piece of the recycling puzzle

As Australia’s population and waste levels continue to rise, recycling matters now more than ever. This year Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week (13 – 19 November) highlights why recycling is only part of the battle. To help win the War on Waste consumers and businesses need to properly close the recycling loop by purchasing products that contain recycled content.

In the 20 years to 2015, Australia’s population increased by 28 per cent and waste levels grew by 170 per cent (i). The good news is that recycling is growing at an even faster rate than waste. What happens to those materials once they have been recycled and how everyone plays a part in the process is a key focus of this year’s National Recycling Week campaign.

Currently the Australian manufacturing economy is predominantly linear, which can be summarised as ‘take, make, use and dispose’. This is not sustainable. A circular economy on the other hand, replaces ‘dispose’ with ‘recycle, reuse and repurpose’ and keeps important materials from being wasted in landfill.

“Since the introduction of kerbside recycling in the 80s and 90s Australians have really embraced recycling. But to truly close the recycling loop, and keep valuable resources like plastic, metal and paper in circulation and out of landfills, we need to buy back the products that have been made from our recycling,” says Ryan Collins, Planet Ark’s Recycling Programs Manager.

New research (ii) from Planet Ark’s new guide What Goes Around: Why Buying Recycled MattersMatters shows 88 per cent of Australians already purchase products that contain recycled materials, and 70 per cent said they would be more likely to purchase products and / or packaging if they contained recycled materials. Most Australians also have high awareness of some products that can be made with recycled materials including office paper (83 per cent), toilet tissue (75 per cent) and paper towels (78 per cent).

However, the new research also shows there is less awareness about other products that can be made using recycled materials, such as road surfaces, printer cartridges, paving and carpet underlay.

“We’re actually surrounded by products made from our recycling, and people may be surprised by some of the recycled products out there, like wallets and purses made from tyre inner tubes; surfboard fins made from ocean plastic; eye glasses made from milk bottle lids; fencing made from printer cartridges; as well as shampoo bottles and shopping bags made from recycled PET plastic and even pet litter made from recycled paper. Also, inspiring discoveries from research and development projects are finding more and more ways to utilise waste, so the list of products made from recycled materials will continue to grow,” Collins says.

Some of those innovations include using the unique qualities of problem waste, like tyres, to create synthetic hockey or soccer pitches, or even green steel, which reduces electricity consumption and delivers productivity improvements. Other inspiring stories include research into new uses for glass, which can be used in road bases and construction.

“When consumers and businesses purchase products that are made from recycled materials, they create a demand for recycling, which supports Australian industry, allows new recycled manufacturing opportunities to flourish and creates jobs. As well as being good for the environment, the financial benefits of this closed loop cycle are significant. It’s estimated that by 2025 the circular economy in Australia could be worth $26 billion,” Collins says.

High consumer support for products that contain recycled content will grow that market and strengthen the circular economy in Australia. To make it easier for consumers and businesses to buy recycled, Planet Ark has created a handy online directory to raise awareness that these products are available and plentiful.

i) MRA Consulting Group 2016, ‘State of Waste 2016 – current and future Australian trends’ https://blog.mraconsulting.com.au/2016/04/20/state-of-waste-2016-current-and-future-australian-trends/#_edn2

ii) What Goes Around: Why Buying Recycled Matters. A Guide for Households, Businesses and Councils, October 2017 https://recyclingweek.planetark.org/media/research.cfm

Repackaging the impact of food waste

As consumer awareness of the magnitude of food waste grows, Sealed Air’s Ron Cotterman says the time for retailers to implement more effective preventive measures is now.

Across the globe, one-third of the food we produce is wasted each year. That equates to some 1.3 billion tonnes of food, causing both economic losses and significant damage to the environment, according to the United Nations.

Where and how that food is wasted differs from country to country. In developing nations, most of the food waste occurs during the production phase (due to lack of sufficient refrigeration and poor infrastructure), with very little waste on the consumer side. More developed countries are very efficient at moving food to the point of processing and retailing, but large amounts of waste is occurring at the consumer side.

To highlight this growing issue of food waste, and to explore the opportunities that using innovative packaging can bring to retailers and consumers, leading packaging company Sealed Air recently released a report, Taking Action to Tackle Food Waste Challenges, as part of its commitment to reducing food waste.

The report highlighted the current impact of food waste in Australia and New Zealand, which currently stands at 8.3 million tonnes annually, at a retail value of $9.5 billion. In the average Australian and New Zealand household, consumers are essentially throwing $1000 worth of food in the bin each year.

The leading cause of consumer and retail food waste, according to Sealed Air’s vice president of sustainability Ron Cotterman, is the increasing amount of fresh foods demanded by consumers and their inherently perishable nature. “When you look at fresh food there is more wastage because a portion of the food will typically spoil or expire before it can be consumed,” he said. “So when it comes to opportunities to reduce food waste, [one solution] is actually to protect food so that it stays fresh for longer.

“In other words, increase the shelf life or the freshness of that food that otherwise might spoil. If you could make that last a week, two weeks or even longer, and maintain that freshness, you have a greater chance of reducing the amount of food that gets wasted across the supply chain. That is either in retail or food service but also increasing the amount of food that gets consumed in our households.”

According to Sealed Air’s study, 83 per cent of retailers in Australia and 90 per cent of retailers in New Zealand believe shelf life is critical to reducing shrink. When it comes to an increase in profits by controlling shrink, Australian retailers forecast this to be four per cent, while retailers in New Zealand forecast six per cent.

Sealed Air is taking action to address this is by offering food processors and retailers packaging solutions that extend shelf life, improve food safety and consequently lower costs. One example of this is Cryovac Darfresh; a vacuum packaging that provides a unique combination of longer shelf life and more dramatic product presentation. In this innovative package, the food product itself enables the finished package to have a smooth, skin-tight appearance that appeals to consumers while also giving them more time to enjoy the fresh product.

But packaging is just one solution to the food waste problem. Today, most retailers respond to the crisis when products are close to expiration and need to be consumed or donated in some way. However, Cotterman said alternative action can be taken. “We are seeing a number of retailers participating with organisations to donate food so that it doesn’t end up going to a landfill or disposed of in another way, but there is another action that retailers can take,” he said.

“That action is to look at the food they are wasting and prevent that waste in the first place. In other words, better analytics, better inventory management to know what food categories are spoiling and why, and to then work to extend shelf life so that food ultimately does not need to be donated,” he said.

Darfresh on Tray by Sealed Air.
Darfresh on Tray by Sealed Air.

 

 

“The ability to be ahead is key to extending shelf life, labelling food properly and then informing the consumer about the best ways to store and use that food.”

Traditionally, Sealed Air has focused on its state-of-the-art methods of extending the shelf life of foods through packaging solutions. But more recently, it has been trying to understand how data from the supply chain can be utilised and what kind of data and measurements it can make within its customers’ facilities. Ultimately this will flow through to retail, and hopefully in the future to consumers to ensure transparency in the entire supply chain.

“We talk a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) and data, but let’s apply that very specifically to the amount of food that is being wasted,” said Cotterman. “Let’s use the techniques that are available in other market sectors and apply them to the food industry to manage one of our most valuable resources:  fresh, nutritious food.”

“The retail supply chain will have a key role in reducing food waste; predominantly that’s through data management. So, understanding the sources of food waste across the supply chain and the interventions that can occur across those points is going to be absolutely key.”

When it comes to the role of consumers in reducing food waste, education is pivotal in helping them recognise the problem and to consequently drive behaviour that will result in less waste. As part of this effort, Sealed Air is investigating how it can address consumer misconceptions around packaging and its effect on the environment.

The company conducted a Harris Poll that revealed nine out of 10 consumers view packaging to be worse for the environment than food waste. In reality, said Cotterman, the opposite is true.

“If you do a very analytical study and look at the environmental impact of food waste, and compare that to the environmental impact of packaging, you can show that food waste is significantly worse, almost an order of magnitude greater than the environmental impact of the packaging used to protect it. So we have been looking how we can use information on the packaging that informs the consumer why certain products are packaged the way they are.”

“We think that by educating the consumer on the value of increasing the shelf life and providing extra time and convenience in the use of that food, will ultimately give them the ability to reduce the amount of food that they waste,” he said.

Confusion over labelling is also a big contributor to food waste. Terms such as ‘use by’, ‘sell by’ and ‘best by’ are used interchangeably by processers, and create a lot of confusion, causing consumers to throw food away before it is actually spoiling.

One solution being addressed today by governments and industry experts is standardising and clarifying food date labelling.  As a result the two standards occurring globally now are ‘best if used by’ and ‘expires on’. The first is used for food that reaches a maximum freshness by a certain time period but is still safe to consume for some period after that date.  The second tells the consumer that after that date, the food may no longer be safe to eat and consequently should be discarded.

The driving message around food waste, concludes Cotterman, is that no single company or country is capable of tackling the issue alone. Governments, businesses and organisations need to collaborate to ensure a more sustainable future.

“We are seeing large groups forming and coming together to try and determine where and why food is being wasted across the supply chain. [They are looking at] what sort of interventions, what sort innovations and what sort of technologies can be applied to the food waste they are identifying, how this can be prevented and how more food can flow through that system to the consumer,” he said.

“Innovation, education and collaboration.  By aligning efforts to prevent food waste, we can work together across the supply chain to come up with methods to reduce the amount of waste and its impacts.  This is good news for consumers, for the environment and for business.”

IoT has a role to play in reducing food waste.
IoT has a role to play in reducing food waste.

Deakin Uni trial diverts food waste from landfill

Hundreds of tonnes of greenhouse gas-producing food waste could be saved from landfill each year thanks to an innovative new environmental system at Deakin University.

A successful three month trial has shown the system has the potential to reduce waste by approximately 12 tonnes a year from one of the University’s corporate hospitality centres at the Waurn Ponds Estate.

Deakin Organisational Sustainability Manager Emma Connan said the Estate previously generated more than 24 tonnes of total waste per year – or 460kg per week – but the Closed Loop CLO-30 system enabled diversion of more than 245kg of weekly waste away from landfill by converting it into high-quality fertiliser.

Ms Connan said Deakin would now review whether the system could be implemented across the organisation’s four campuses and 19 food sites, possibly kicking off with a precinct-scale trial at Deakin University’s Melbourne Burwood Campus.

The move could potentially save hundreds of tonnes of food waste from ending up in landfill each year.

Ms Connan said Deakin was committed to being a leader in sustainability and environmental responsibility among the communities it serves.

“As Deakin University prepares and educates the next generation, we also have a responsibility to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to mitigate our impact on the environment for those future generations,” she said.

“Reducing waste and improving sustainability is such a hot topic at the moment, and food waste can play a big role in that.”

The successful trial program has led to Deakin University being shortlisted as a finalist in the 2017 Green Gown Awards Australasia, which is being held by Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability on 2 November.

The Closed Loop CLO-30 system works through pouring food waste into the machine, which then uses controlled temperatures, agitation, airflow and organic starter material to decompose and pasteurise the food and organic waste into dry compost over 24 hours.

The output of the technology is a nitrogen and phosphorous-rich soil conditioner or fertiliser, which Ms Connan said was perfect for established plants in the garden and could also be integrated into the soil one or two weeks prior to planting.

“What you’re left with is a beautiful, rich, dry soil conditioner, which is then used on the Estate’s organic kitchen garden,” she said.

Ms Connan said the process also reduced environmentally-harmful greenhouse gas emissions by up to eight tonnes per year, even after taking into account energy consumption and emissions from operating the technology.

“Greenhouse gas emissions from food waste can be a huge problem,” she said.

“Research shows that food waste can produce 21 times more greenhouse gas emissions in landfill compared to rubbish and hard waste.”

Following the successful three month trial, the Waurn Ponds Estate – which operates a restaurant and regularly hosts catered functions and conferences – has now committed to using the system fulltime.

“It’s very simple technology to use and the process of involving all of our food sites sounds simple, but one of the issues to overcome with expanding the operation is going to be transporting food waste, which involves quite a lot of OHS considerations and regulations,” Ms Connan said.

The Deakin University food waste processing trial was completed in partnership with the CSIRO, the City of Greater Geelong and the Geelong Manufacturing Council.

 

Packaging as part of the food waste solution

While there are clear humanitarian, environmental and economic reasons to reduce food waste, the solutions to the problem are not as clear. We spoke to Karl Deily, President of Sealed Air Food Care to hear his views on how to best address this problem.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that one third of all food produced globally each year is wasted.

Food waste also has major environmental implications. According to the World Resources Institute, if global food wastage were a country, it would rank only behind China and the US as the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

In Australia, according to the Federal Government, consumers waste 20 per cent of food they buy, while the commercial and industrial sectors waste around three million tonnes of food annually. All this is estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion a year.

The Federal Government has committed to reducing Australia’s food waste by 50 per cent by 2030. It will hold a National Food Waste summit involving government, industry, academia and the not-for-profit sector in November this year. The government has flagged the possibility of introducing incentives to reduce the amount of food ending up as landfill.

In other words, there has never been a better time than now for industry to address the problem. With this in mind, Food & Beverage Industry News caught up with Karl Deily, President of Sealed Air Food Care (pictured below) to hear his views.

Karl_Deily-4720

Where and why?

First off, Deily explained that food loss and food waste are two distinct things. The former includes food that is lost during harvesting, while the latter covers waste by the processor, retailer or consumer.

While food loss is still a significant problem in the developing world, Deily explained that it is not as significant in developed economies. “In modern economies around the world most of the food is lost at the retailer and consumer level,” he said. “At the retailer it can be as high as 12 – 15 per cent, with some produce items as high as 30 per cent on a weight basis. When you look at calories wasted, dairy and meat products are significant contributors.”

There are a number of causes for the food waste problem. At the consumer level, much of it comes down to a lack of awareness.

According to Deily, while Australia ranks relatively highly in this regard, globally “most consumers don’t feel that they’re responsible for food waste, or its not high on their agenda but they feel they contribute to it.”

In actual fact, throwing out food has a significant impact.

“If a consumer throws away 2kg of meat they’re not just throwing away the meat. They’re also throwing away over 2,000 litres of water, 1kg of grain, 23kg of CO2 emission that it took to produce the product, process it distribute it and get it to the consumer,” said Deily.

At the retail level, the causes of food waste are more complex. The issue of “ugly produce” or food that does not meet the cosmetic standards of retailers (or consumers) is one important factor. According to Deily, shelf life is another. Too often, supermarkets find themselves having to either mark down prices as products approach their “best by” dates or, worse still, throw away food that has passed this date.

“Everyone is grappling with the difference between best before date, use buy date, sell by date, etc. These can all be very confusing,” said Deily. “They’re based on a statistical model, [whereby] if you have a sell by date and the food is thrown away, 50 per cent of the food you are throwing away is perfectly good because you have to determine an average life for the product.”

He pointed to a proposal to simplify the system by introducing a clear “Expires On” date which would only be used for foods such as meat where food safety can’t be compromised.

Other foods, like yoghurt, would carry only a “Best if used by” date. Consumers would be encouraged to use their discretion (and senses) to work out if such foods are still okay.

Solutions

According to Deily, reducing food waste requires an end-to-end approach.

“We have to have logistics that protect the product through transportation. We have to have technologies that enable the retailer to merchandise the product in a way that minimises waste. Then we have to come up with labelling and information that resonates with the consumer,” he said.

According to Deily, packaging can be part of the solution.

“If you show consumers a cucumer unwrapped then show them one wrapped, they’ll say they want the unpackaged product because plastic has got to be bad for the environment,” he said.

However, what they don’t factor in is the fact that the packaged item lasts two to three times longer than the unpackaged item. Therefore it is more likely to make it to the consumer and less likely to end up as landfill where it will rot and produce methane (a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2).

Deily added that in the case of meat, when the whole supply chain is considered, the carbon foot print of the product may be up to 300-400 times larger than that of its packaging. “So we look at what technologies can we use to extend the life of the product as long as possible,” he said.

Emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) will play an important role in reducing food waste.

According to Deily, IoT can help with tracking product, monitoring product temperature, and even with inventory and management control.

“IoT through connectivity and Quick Response (QR) or bar coding can ensure the oldest product is shipped and consumed first. And that there is better coordination between what is sold at retail and what is needed to be produced for replenishment of stock,” he said.

This technology can even help the consumer.

“We’re working on some QSR code technologies through the IoT which will drive an improved engagement with the consumer and the products they buy. This will enable the consumer to better understand how to use it, how to cook it and whether it’s okay to freeze at the end of its shelf-life,” said Deily.

Benefits for businesses

Apart from its humanitarian and environmental costs, food waste makes bad business sense.

“Globally, it’s estimated that 1.2 billion kg of meat is thrown out at retail every year… Businesses are throwing away over US$9b of product that they don’t sell,” said Deily.

The good news is that cost and waste reduction go hand-in-hand.

To illustrate the pointed Deily pointed to a study Sealed Air did for a UK retailer. By changing the package format in just one food category the retailer was able to reduce the amount of food they were throwing away by 350,000kg and provide a new package format that appealed to the consumer. This equated to an increase of value of US$19m from reduced food waste and increased product sales.

“We have data to show that every dollar you invest to minimise food waste there is about a $14 return on investment,” said Deily. “This is why prevention is preferred over strategies that either recycle or recover food that is about to become waste.”

Sealed Air

Deily pointed out that Sealed Air, predominantly a plastic packaging supplier, is judged by some as part of the problem. But he maintains the company is part of the solution.

For example, the company’s award winning Cryovac Darfresh on Tray more than doubles the shelf life of red meat when compared to the standard Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) process. In addition, it produces no film scrap and up to 40 per cent less material waste.

Another product, the Cryovac Freshness Plus film includes components which absorb oxygen before it reaches the product thereby enabling significant shelf life extension of products such as avocado and bakery goods.

Food waste at the manufacturing level can be effectively managed through improved process technology. Deily explained that this is because the sector operates in a closed environment and can therefore ensure that all processes are monitored and controlled.

Pork producers, for example, make it their business to market and merchandise almost every part of the animal. Apart from food for human consumption, they produce animal food and can even make fertiliser through blood recovery techniques.

“A lot of the loss for processors is just losing some of the economic value, so we work a lot with customers on making sure they maintain the highest value of their product by improving the yields and operational efficiency,” said Deily.

For example, Sealed Air has implemented technologies for deboning a turkey breast as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. The company works in processing plants to help in ways that (directly or indirectly) help reduce waste.

Finally, Deily mentioned Sealed Air’s efforts to reduce food waste by smarter portioning. “We look to deliver product that can be portioned in smaller portions, in a manner that is good for the whole value chain.”

Around the world Sealed Air’s new packaging solutions and technologies are being recognised. Closer to home in Australia and New Zealand, Cryovac Darfresh for fresh pork and Cryovac Freshness Plus for fresh avocado won the votes of the judging panel at the 2016 and 2017 ANZ Save Food Packaging Awards. Each solution was able to significantly extend the shelf life, enable wider food distribution and access, all while reducing food waste.

Darfresh On Tray.
Darfresh On Tray.

 

 

Food Collective addressing NZ food waste issue

With supermarkets across New Zealand rising to the food waste challenge, chefs and food service professionals are encouraged to join the Food Collective by donating surplus food, minimising food waste to landfill and understanding how food waste can be better managed in their kitchen.

The partnership between Unilever Food Solutions, KiwiHarvest and Kaibosh, provides the opportunity to raise much needed revenue for the charities, whilst increasing awareness of reducing waste in commercial kitchens and redirecting surplus foods to people in need. For each case of Unilever Food Solutions purchased, 50 cents will be donated to KiwiHarvest and Kaibosh.

“Reducing food waste is one of the big challenges facing the hospitality industry,” said Unilever Food Solutions Business Manager New Zealand, Reece McLaughlan.

“Food has a high carbon ‘footprint’, and so while most people think of only the disposal expenses, the costs are actually much higher. It requires considerable energy to grow, harvest, transport, process, package, retail and prepare food, so wastage has a serious impact on our planet,” he notes.

KiwiHarvest and Kaibosh have delivered over five million meals in need in their community to date.

“Unilever Food Solutions has taken an important step towards addressing these issues with the Food Collective,” said KiwiHarvest CEO and Founder Deborah Manning. “The hospitality industry can show support for our work rescuing food and nourishing communities, by ordering products from the Unilever Food Solutions range. Together we can make a difference.”

The three organisations are also encouraging chefs across all types of foodservice venues to support this simple, yet effective movement to take up leaderships positions on the issue in their industry.

Turning environmental problems into profit

CST Wastewater Solutions will showcase successful waste-to-energy technologies that respond to worldwide trends towards renewables at foodPro 2017 in Sydney from July 16-19.

The GWE anaerobic digestion technologies – to be featured on Stand S9 – extract biogas from virtually any biological waste stream, including municipal food wastes from restaurants, food service facilities, grocery stores, and municipal solid waste, as well as organic wastes from industrial processing facilities, food and beverage plants and agribusinesses.

The environmentally advanced technologies transform waste organic materials and wastewaters from an environmental liability into a profit centre, says CST Wastewater Solutions Managing Director, Mike Bambridge.

One of the technologies, GWE’s RAPTOR (which stands for Rapid Transformation of Organic Residues), is a powerful liquid-state anaerobic digestion process that consists of enhanced pre-treatment followed by multi-step biological fermentation.

RAPTOR is ideally suited to both industrial and municipal applications in Australasia, with one of its most recent installations demonstrating its potential for similar applications here, said Bambridge, whose company distributes the Global Water Engineering RAPTOR technology throughout Australia and New Zealand.

GWE anaerobic technology success story

A waste-to-energy project undertaken by the world’s largest integrated pineapple operation, Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI), which has exceeded even the high effluent quality targets originally set for the job.

The Global Water Engineering (GWE) wastewater treatment installation (pictured) at the Cagayan de Oro pineapple canning plant has achieved 93 percent organic pollution (COD) removal in its anaerobic reactors, producing in the process enough green energy (methane rich biogas) to power two 1.4 MW generating electrical power generator units (or gensets).

DMPI – which accounts for about 10 per cent of the world’s annual production of processed pineapple products – will benefit from environmentally clean electricity to replace fossil fuels typically used in electrical power plants.

And the waste heat from the gensets is also put to use to heat up steam boiler feed water, which is a further reduction of fossil fuel use in the factory. Given the high prices of electricity form the Grid and the sometimes erratic supply, the plant will achieve rapid ROI payback, said Bambridge.

“Similar energy supply and price issues exist in Australasia, so the technology is highly relevant here,” he said.

The technology involved in this case study applies not only to pineapple production but also to a wide range of Australian and New Zealand food industries, including livestock and horticultural operations including fruit and vegetables, grain crops and any agribusiness with a biological waste stream.

 

Australian researchers find way to stop food mould

West Australian researchers led by Dr. Kirsty Bayliss have discovered how to stop mould growing on fresh food.

Dr. Bayliss will be presenting her technology, titled ‘Breaking the Mould’, a chemical-free treatment for fresh produce that increases shelf-life, prevents mould and decay, and reduces food wastage, in the US.

“Our technology will directly address the global food security challenge by reducing food waste and making more food available for more people,” Dr. Bayliss said.

“The technology is based on the most abundant form of matter in the universe– plasma. Plasma kills the moulds that grow on fruit and vegetables, making fresh produce healthier for consumption and increasing shelf-life.”

Dr. Bayliss’s Murdoch University team has been working on preliminary trials for the past 18 months and are now preparing to start scaling up trials to work with commercial production facilities.

Dr. Bayliss said the LAUNCH Food Innovation Challenge was a “huge opportunity.”

“I will be presenting our research to an audience comprising investors, company directors and CEOs, philanthropists and other influential people from organisations such as Fonterra, Walmart, The Gates Foundation, as well as USAID, DFAT and even Google Food.”

“What is really exciting is the potential linkages and networks that I can develop; already NASA are interested in our work,” she said.

In an interview with ABC Online, she said “Food wastage contributes to a lot of the food insecurity as the US and Europe wastes around 100 kilograms of food per person every year.

“If we could reduce food wastage by a quarter, we could feed 870 million people.”

Dr. Bayliss said the technology also kills bacteria associated with food-borne illness, such as salmonella and listeria.

 

 

Reducing food waste great for companies’ bottom lines

New research on behalf of Champions 12.3 has found that for every dollar companies invested to reduce food loss and waste, they saved $14 in operating costs. The report finds that household savings could be much greater.

In a first-of-its kind analysis, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste evaluated financial cost and benefit data for 1,200 sites across 700 companies in 17 countries, finding that nearly every site realized a positive return on its investment to reduce food waste. The types of investments companies made include: quantifying and monitoring food loss and waste, training staff on practices to reduce waste, changing food storage and handling processes, changing packaging to extend shelf-life, changing date labels, and other staff and technology investments.

The 14:1 return on investment comes from not buying food that would have been lost or wasted, increasing the share of food that is sold to customers, introducing new product lines made from food that otherwise would have been lost or wasted, reducing waste management costs and other savings.

“A third of the world’s food is wasted – and yet almost a billion people go to bed hungry each night. That simply cannot be right. But even if the moral imperative doesn’t move us, the clear business case should swing people to act. What this research shows is that there’s now no social, environmental or economic reason why we should not come together and take action to reduce food waste,” said Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3.

Government Action Saves Consumers Significant Money

The research also finds that savings for consumers could be enormous. From 2007 to 2012, the United Kingdom ran a nationwide initiative to reduce household food waste. This included consumer education through the “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign via in-store messaging on proper food storage and preparation and use of leftovers; product innovations like re-sealable salad bags, changes to pack size and formats and date labelling; and financing to establish baseline data on food waste and monitor progress on reduction.

During this period, for every £1 the government, companies and the non-profit organization WRAP invested in these efforts to curb household food waste, consumers and local government saved £250. Over the first five years of this initiative, avoidable household food waste was reduced 21 percent. Figures released for 2012-2015 show that progress has stalled, which emphasises the need to regularly evaluate, review and adjust approaches to food waste reduction.

At a time of economic strain for many families, throwing away less food is a valuable way to put money back in people’s pockets. In the UK, the average household with children discards approximately £700 of edible food each year. In the United States, the average family of four wastes roughly $1,500 annually on food that goes into the garbage.

“Our experience suggests that there are two main barriers to food waste reduction: a lack of awareness of the scale of food waste in the business and the home and the business case for change,” said Marcus Gover, Chief Executive of WRAP. “This groundbreaking report we wrote with WRI shows there is a clear business case for tackling food waste for businesses, municipalities and governments. Given this analysis, our message is simple; target, measure and act.  Above all act.  It makes sense socially, environmentally and above all economically.”

City Investments in Curbing Food Waste Pay Off

In 2012, six London boroughs piloted a local-level Love Food Hate Waste campaign led by WRAP, ultimately saving local authorities £8 in avoided waste disposal costs for every £1 invested, and an average of £84 for households participating. After just six months, households had reduced their waste by 15 percent. London’s experience indicates great potential for other cities to save money and food by taking action to reduce food loss and waste. Other cities that are starting to tackle food waste, starting with measuring the problem, include Denver, Nashville, New York, and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).

“The success we saw in the United Kingdom proves that it’s possible to make real inroads in reducing food waste,” said Liz Goodwin, Senior Fellow and Director of Food Loss and Waste at World Resources Institute and the new Chair of the London Waste and Recycling Board. “The challenge now is to get every country, major city and company to realise that reducing food loss and waste is a win-win. There are far too many tough, intractable problems in the world – food loss and waste doesn’t have to be one of them.”

In the study, government and business leaders also noted other reasons they find reducing food loss and waste beneficial, including better relationships with customers and suppliers, increasing food security, adhering to waste regulations, upholding a sense of ethical responsibility and promoting environmental sustainability. Since food loss and waste is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, tackling this challenge can help lower emissions and meet commitments to the Paris Agreement.

The report recommends leaders take a “target, measure, act” approach to reduce the amount of food lost and wasted. First, every government and company should set a target to halve food loss and waste, in line with Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Second, governments and companies need to start measuring food loss and waste so they can identify hotspots and monitor progress over time. The recently launched Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard can help them do this. Third, leaders need to act, implementing programs and practices for reducing food loss and waste.

Continental working to eliminate food waste

Unilever’s iconic Australian food brand, Continental is partnering with local innovator and start-up RipeNear.Me to help eliminate food waste.

Continental’s plan involves encouraging home cooks to use surplus produce from local growers in their communities and work towards ensuring 100 per cent of the vegetables, meat, herbs and spices used in their products are sourced sustainably by 2020.

Together, Continental and RipeNear.Me are bringing freshness and local flavour to Australia’s favourite meals and connecting backyard growers, sellers and traders with everyday home cooks to help them make responsible choices.

A specially-developed app, available on both the Continental and RipeNear.Me websites, makes it easier for Australians to use home-grown produce to prepare flavourful everyday meals. Consumers can simply visit the Continental website, select the Continental recipe they want to make, and when they enter their postcode RipeNear.Me will help them source fresh home-grown ingredients to create their dish. Likewise, when users put their postcode into the app to discover all of the local produce on their doorstep, RipeNear.Me will suggest some of Continental’s delicious recipes that will make use of these ingredients.

The partnership is the collaborative work of Continental and the Unilever Foundry, an entry-point for tech innovative companies seeking to connect with Unilever. In a bid to build and cultivate strategic partners for the future, the Foundry invited international start-ups to pitch as part of a rigorous pitch process. RipeNear.Me won with their impressive platform, network and brand synergies with Continental.

Food security: we throw away a third of the food we grow – here’s what to do about waste

In the UK, roughly a third of the food grown in the field never actually makes into anybody’s mouth. For every three pigs raised on a farm, the equivalent of one will ultimately be sent to landfill. A third of all apples, perfectly good for consumption, will somehow be discarded. The message is simple: we waste food, and we waste a lot of it.

Food waste is a global problem, but in the developed world, where our farming and manufacturing practices are efficient, the food waste that occurs at these early stages is largely unavoidable (meat bones, egg shells, banana peel and the like).

Conversely, in UK homes – where 7m of the 13m tonnes of food waste comes from each year – 77% of waste is either avoidable (at some point, it has been perfectly good food) or possibly avoidable (food that some people eat, but others don’t, such as potato skins and meat fat). This is akin to throwing away one shopping bag in five as you leave the supermarket – with an annual cost to a family of four of more than £740.

Clearly, not all food waste is equal. The cost and environmental impact of a kilo of beef is much higher than that of a kilo of potatoes, as would be expected. And so with short shelf-life food categories. Fresh produce, bakery, meats and dairy top the most wasted list – and have the largest energy, CO2, and water footprints – and so should be the main focus for reducing waste.

Blame game

It seems too easy to say that it is the responsibility of consumers to reduce these ridiculous levels of waste. And it is too easy. A couple of years ago, Professor Tim Lang wrote here about food waste being a symptom of a much bigger problem, explaining that the relative low cost of food almost forces a consumer society to buy more food than it can eat. It is arguably the economic powerhouses (in this case, the food giants) that drive this through brand advertising, store layouts and clever pricing strategies. So the question is now: isn’t it the food providers’ responsibility to reduce food waste?

So much waste, but whose fault is it?
Dora Zett

Well, the answer is that both providers and consumers have a part to play. For the consumers, the argument for this is easy: wasting less food equals saving more money, and you feel good for doing less harm to the environment. For the providers (manufacturers and retailers), the drive is less clear: selling less food equals less profit.

Cooking up a solution

So how can food providers help consumers reduce food waste, but still remain profitable? There are a few options, but some of them are not easy to swallow. The price of food seems a pretty obvious place to start. Consumers currently spend around 11% of their income on food and drink. Five decades ago, the proportion was three times higher, so naturally people wasted less. In sub-Saharan Africa, where consumers spend half of their income on food, it would be difficult to envisage high levels of waste. But increasing the price of food such that consumers “value” it more is likely to be very unpopular – and such a move would fly in the face of the modern food industry and its apparently eternal price wars.

Looking at the statistics, it appears that a large proportion of food waste is due to products with short shelf-lives not being used in time. Consequently, there is potential for improvements in food processing or packaging and storage to increase the useable life of such products and reduce the potential for spoilage before use.

But given that leading supermarkets demand 90% of product life at the point of store entry, and goods already have extended lifetimes due to already excessive packaging and protective atmospheres, significant increases in shelf-life are unlikely.

A brave move might be to abolish “use-by” and “best-before” dates (we didn’t have them before the 1970s), but this would open up a legislative can of worms. Until somebody invents a device that can reliably tell whether a leg of lamb has gone off, I suspect these dates are likely to stay.

Time to shelve the use-by dates?
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You could just make sure you eat the food before it goes bad, but the nation’s already bulging waistline might struggle with this extra consumption. Food waste via overconsumption is yet another issue.

Delivering efficiencies

Perhaps the greatest improvement would be to completely change the food provision market. Consumers are like micro-manufacturers: they buy stock (ingredients) and use processes (cook) to meet a demand (their family’s hunger). But unlike manufacturers, consumers aren’t very good at managing their inventory, using their processes efficiently or predicting demand accurately. This leads to food waste.

There is therefore an argument for food providers to help consumers meet their families’ needs by selling meals, not food. It’s not inconceivable to imagine in the future people planning meals and then ordering them off the internet for home delivery – it might build better relationships between providers and consumers, too. Even if consumers pay more for food which is delivered when wanted and actually gets eaten, it would be more convenient and could well end up being cheaper overall.

Whichever approaches materialise to successfully reduce food waste, one thing is certain: there needs to be a collaborative, mutually beneficial approach for both providers and consumers. Only with this market-level change can we expect the amount of food we throw away to diminish.

The Conversation

Elliot Woolley, Lecturer in Sustainable Manufacturing, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Dairies finding new “whey” of turning waste into profit

Dairies are continuously striving to maximise efficiencies and eliminate waste. For those plants producing cheese, there is a profitable method available for turning whey, a cheese by-product, into a significant revenue stream.

Historically, cheese processors would discard whey by transporting it off-site where to be dried by other companies or used as cattle feed, or in some cases drain it to an effluent treatment plant (ETP) or city municipality.

These options would come at significant transport or disposal costs, negatively impact the environment and operating margins.

With its technology portfolio and spray drying process expertise SPX Flow has helped many of these cheese producers upgrade their facilities to produce whey powder, whey protein isolate powder, non-caking whey powder, non-caking permeate powder and lactose powder.

Recently, the company was awarded contracts to design and construct new plants in Lithuania to produce whey powder and non-caking permeate powder and in France a high yield lactose powder plant. This lactose plant can provide a 20 per cent yield improvement compared to traditional processes. Other projects previously commissioned in South America, Scandinavia and Germany are running successfully and helping to establish new global standards in this area.

This lactose process requires specific knowledge of the heat and hold process to elongate evaporator runs as well as key technology used in the crystallisation process. This specialised process knowledge and equipment offered by the company brings advantages including higher product quality, whiter colour, free flowing and heat stable powders resulting in:

  • Consistently higher quality grade product that can be sold at higher prices
  • Ability to produce larger output from a single process plant
  • Very hygienic design compared to alternatives in the market
  • Significant operating margin improvements driven by yields

The company’s Drying and Liquid processing technologies provide  customers with reliable and optimised designs to help them achieve cost efficient solutions in today’s highly competitive dairy market.

Reducing food waste could put birds and animals at risk

Well-intended efforts to reduce food waste could threaten some birds and animal species, a new paper has warned.

Writing in the journal Animal Conservation, researchers have called for scientists to consider how food efficiency measures may affect animal populations that rely on landfill and other food waste to survive.

The warning comes as developed countries introduce new measures aimed at reducing food waste, such as sending expired food to charities instead of landfill.

“Scientists working on the biology of animal species (particularly those involved in research on conservation) would do well to make predictions, and test hypotheses, about how the food waste agenda is likely to impact the biodiversity of the planet,” the authors wrote in their paper.

Lead author of the paper, Iain Gordon, a professor of terrestrial ecology and James Cook University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Tropical Environments and Societies, said humans waste about 40% of the food we grow.

“So what is the implication of removing that waste from the system?” he said. “There may be some species then that face a significant decline in their populations.”

For example, birds that eat grain spilled in the harvest during stopovers along their migration routes could go hungry if farmers use more efficient machinery to reduce crop losses.

“Seagull populations have risen in the northern hemisphere because often they are associated with landfill. With the reduction to the amount of by catch and food waste going into landfill, seagull levels are declining,” he said.

Bald eagles are also highly reliant on food from landfill in the US, he said. If humans created less landfill, the bald eagles may eat other animals instead.

In Europe, the authors of the paper noted, legislation in the wake of mad cow disease forced farmers to bury or burn dead animals that would normally be left lying in fields.

“This led to a reduction in vulture populations to the degree that a number of species are now at risk of extinction,” the researchers wrote.

Consider the consequences

Martine Maron, Associate Professor of Environmental Management at the University of Queensland said the paper raised interesting questions but that humans needed to work harder to reduce their food waste.

“It’s a no brainer. Reducing food waste reduces the amount of food we have to produce and producing food creates a lot of problems for our wildlife,” said Professor Maron, who was not involved in the study.

“We just need to make sure we aren’t having any unintended consequences. And if we are, that we can come up with solutions to help any species that might suffer as a result,” she said.

The Conversation

Ninah Kopel, Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

More action needed on global food waste: report

A new report assesses the world’s progress toward Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which calls on all nations to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

Given the magnitude of food loss and waste globally, the report recommends nations, cities and businesses in the food supply chain move quickly to set reduction targets, measure progress and take action to reduce food loss and waste.

One-third of all food produced is never eaten by people. The impact of this loss and waste worldwide is tremendous. Food loss and waste is responsible for $940 billion in economic losses and 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The new publication, SDG Target 12.3 on Food Loss and Waste: 2016 Progress Report, was released on behalf of Champions 12.3, a unique coalition of leaders from government, business and civil society around the world dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilising action, and accelerating progress toward achieving SDG Target 12.3.

According to the report, governments and organisations across Europe, Africa and the United States have taken a number of notable steps over the past year, but — considering the enormous scope of the food loss and waste challenge — much more is needed worldwide. The report offers three recommendations for leaders to meet Target 12.3 by 2030:

  • Target: Targets set ambition, and ambition motivates action. Every country, major city and company involved in the food supply chain should set food loss and waste reduction targets consistent with Target 12.3 in order to ensure sufficient attention and focus.
  • Measure: What gets measured gets managed. The report recommends governments and companies quantify and report on food loss and waste and monitor progress over time through 2030.
  • Act: Impact only occurs if people act. Governments and companies should accelerate and scale up adoption of policies, incentives, investment and practices that reduce food loss and waste.

The full report can be viewed here.

 

Australian communities are fighting food waste with circular economies

Around 4 million tonnes of food reaches landfill in Australia each year. This forms part of Australia’s organic waste, the country’s largest unrecovered stream of waste that goes into landfill.

There’s a missed opportunity here to recover this waste and do something useful with it. In particular, we can use it for energy such as biofuel. This forms part of a broader concept known as the “circular economy”.

In the absence of federal initiatives, state and local governments and communities are developing projects to foster a circular economy that can absorb this and other waste. This would then provide usable products to assist businesses and households and improve sustainability.

Simply disposing of waste in landfill affects households, businesses and governments. It requires time, energy and space, and poses environmental risks. When waste is repurposed for energy and fertiliser, it can give businesses a competitive edge, foster sustainable growth and create jobs.

The circular economy

A circular economy aims to bundle policy and business strategies into a system that works for everyone.

On a wider scale, circular economies underpin food security by reducing and reusing the amount of food waste, utilising byproducts and food waste and recycling nutrients as fertiliser.

While one way of repurposing food waste is to turn it into biofuel, a circular economy does not require all waste to be repurposed. Unwanted food can be given to the needy, or go into further processing. The idea is we extract every joule possible from organic matter, which may require multiple uses.

Some overseas governments have policies that compel businesses to keep their waste out of landfill. These countries are well on the way to developing circular economies. The star performers include Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Scotland and Sweden.

In Australia, the federal government has offered no such incentives. Instead, communities are taking it upon themselves to repurpose waste. State and local governments are introducing policies that offer incentives for recycling, or penalties for producing landfill.

There is a growing interest in co-digestion to boost biogas production, particularly for small wastewater facilities.

Co-digestion is the addition of other waste streams such as:

  • municipal wastewater/sludge
  • food and drink manufacturer process waste (including waste from the beverage, meat processing, dairy, brewing and wine industries)
  • paper/pulp waste
  • greasy waste/fats, oils and greases (from grease trap pump-outs)
  • residential food and green waste (via trucked collection)
  • residential/commercial food waste (organics rubbish bins)
  • food waste (from supermarkets or supermarket chains).

So let’s have a look at recent advances around the country.

South Australia

Commissioned in 2013, South Australia Water’s Glenelg wastewater treatment is Australia’s first co-digestion facility. The addition of food byproducts such as milk, cheese, beer, wine and soft drink has increased power generation from 55% to 75% of the plant’s power requirement.

The South Australian government is developing a bioenergy roadmap. The aim is to link biomass suppliers in regions to users of energy and help to support local businesses to add value.

Victoria

Yarra Valley Water’s waste-to-energy facility is a new co-digestion development at Aurora Sewage Treatment Plant, north of Melbourne. It will process 100 cubic metres of waste each day. The waste is delivered by trucks from local commercial waste producers, such as markets and food manufacturing.

Through Sustainability Victoria, the state government is offering funding through the Advanced Organics Processing Technology Grants program, which supports the installation of small-scale onsite or precinct-scale anaerobic digestion technology for processing organic waste.

New South Wales

Australia’s best example of a community-driven circular economy is being developed in Cowra on the Lachlan River, part of the Murray-Darling catchment. This proposal shows the ability of state and local government, industry and farms to pool waste created in and around a country town to produce energy and fertiliser, which can be used within that same geographic circle.

The project will use two processes: anaerobic digestion and thermal recovery through either pyrolysis or torrefication (the breakdown of organic material at high temperature).

At full capacity, the Cowra biomass project will produce 60% of the town’s energy needs.

CLEAN Cowra: Creating a circular economy through aggregation of organic waste streams. MP= Meat processing; FP= Food processing; MRF= Materials recovery facility; WWTP= Waste water treatment plant; TR= Thermal recovery; AD= Anaerobic digestion; CHP= Combined heat and power.
CLEAN Cowra

NSW’s council amalgamation process is also creating opportunities to link more waste producers and energy users through renewables that turn food, household and agricultural waste into power.

The NSW government’s Growing Community Energy grants have already helped the Cowra project.

The future?

The drive for communities and businesses to reap the rewards of extracting value from food waste is a result of an emerging trend in infrastructure planning, where the once parallel fields of water management, waste management and energy are teaming up.

It appears CLEAN Cowra and its regional and state equivalents are influencing the direction of federal government policy with relevant priority areas for ARENA being identified.

Whatever the driver, anything that can keep organic waste out of landfill has to be a good thing.


This topic will be discussed at this week’s Crawford Fund Conference.

The Conversation

Bernadette McCabe, Associate Professor and Principal Scientist, University of Southern Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.