Published 5 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Brewery Wastewater Design
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Helping people on the front lines of manufacturing and materials management understand company sustainability goals, and providing the leadership support to contribute to achieving them, empowers them to take a more conscious approach to disposal.
What happens when a food or beverage manufacturer produces too much of a
product; the product produced had too little of one ingredient; or worse, a
product is recalled due to a myriad of reasons? Unfortunately, much of the time
it ends up in landfills or incinerators — but there are better ways to recycle
that food and beverage waste.
We need to reframe how we think of food waste and understand that some amount is
inevitable in the manufacturing sector. Since the beginning of mass production,
we have handled excess food waste by sending it to a landfill or incinerator.
More recently, organizations such as Feeding
are rescuing the portion of that waste that is acceptable for human consumption
to feed those who are most in need; last year alone, the nonprofit rescued 3.6
billion pounds of groceries that would otherwise have been thrown in the
dumpster. Yet, in the US, we still waste an estimated 119 billion pounds of
food every year — so, what happens with the rest?
If it’s a byproduct of food or beverage manufacturing, it is most likely not
able to be donated; and the disposal decision falls to a facility manager at one
of the nearly 40,000 food manufacturing sites around the country. These
positions have become a significant role in any food production facility; it’s
up to these folks to decide what to do with that pallet of product. If the waste
is packaged, it is often challenging to compost; and another disposal method
must be engaged. While many companies have zero-waste-to-landfill or zero-carbon
goals, those goals are complicated to implement at the manufacturing-facility
level without strong support from corporate leaders. Food waste from the
manufacturing sector doesn’t just have an impact on that company; it also has
significant consequences for the environment. If food waste were a country, it
would be the third-largest greenhouse gas
after China and the United States. Teams from the C-suite, sustainability
and plant operations all play a role in sustainable and responsible waste
handling at the manufacturing level. Ask yourself, “What story does our waste
There is no longer a debate about the reality of climate
we all understand that it is happening. Multiple states in the US continue to
suffer poor air quality from smoke from far-off or nearby wildfires, stronger
and more destructive hurricanes are hitting our coastlines, and volatile weather
is affecting us all. Right now, drought concerns are growing across our
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How ESG stories and goals are shared inside and outside a company is key; over
the past several years, there have been many research studies and hundreds of
articles written on the subject. One common thread is that the importance of ESG
initiatives applies to almost everyone who touches a company’s process or
product — including internal teams at all levels, customers and
In January, CFO
shared a series of tips on elevating sustainability-focused messaging, — with
internal teams as a top priority. This is a good educational opportunity to
engage all team members — from the CEO to the person working the packaging line.
Knowledge is power. Providing people on the front lines of manufacturing and
organic-materials management with an understanding of the sustainability goals
of the company and the financial and leadership support to contribute to
achieving those goals empowers them to pursue waste recycling as an alternative
to traditional disposal.
And consumers are watching: According to the PDI Business of
they care about what companies are doing to
mitigate their climate footprint — and they are willing to prove that with their wallet. The report noted
that 70 percent of consumers surveyed identified food and restaurants as areas they would most likely make
environmentally friendly purchases.
The proof point is here for those in the food and beverage industry to make more
impactful decisions across their value chains. It’s good for business.
If you refer to the EPA’s “Food Recovery
landfill and incineration are the point of last resort for our food waste.
However, it is often the easiest choice for those who are dealing with their
company’s materials management. When food waste is disposed of in the dumpster,
it becomes another missed opportunity to tell a better story — to your
shareholders, to your team, and to your consumers.
Vanguard Renewables works with some of
the largest food and beverage companies in the US to take their unsaleable waste
and recycle that with dairy-cow manure to create renewable natural gas (RNG) via
Farm Powered anaerobic
A company’s food waste story doesn’t have to end at a landfill or an
incinerator; it can have a higher purpose.
Recycling your food waste to create renewable energy is helping to decarbonize
our communities and build a circular economy. It also provides your company with
a sustainability story that you can share with your consumers, team
Doing good for the environment can be as easy as having your food or beverage
waste hauler take a left at the family farm to recycle it into renewable energy,
rather than turning right to go to the landfill.
The choice is that simple.
Published Jun 28, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
David Darr is Chief Sustainability Officer at Vanguard Renewables. He has over 20 years of experience working with dairy farmers around the country to implement sustainable and regenerative farming practices.
Most recently, Darr served as the SVP and Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer for the Dairy Farmers of America. He holds both a BS and MS in Agriculture Economics from Ohio State University, and an MBA from Rockhurst University.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.