Increasing prevention of food waste could save grocery retailers and food manufacturers in the United Kingdom £300 million a year, according to a recent analysis by the waste reduction experts at WRAP, but the task is easier said than done.
In May 2014, UK grocery giant Tesco became the only British retailer to publish data on the food waste in its operations based on a full financial year. Nearly three years after they began that journey, the company remains the only UK retailer to disclose such information. Tesco has launched a ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ range that uses “parts of the crop that previously fell outside [Tesco’s] specifications,” developed 25 food waste profiles, collaborated with food redistribution charity FareShare, and pursued other food waste reduction initiatives over the years. The company aims to offer 100 percent of its surplus food from its UK stores to charity by the end of 2017, and is a signatory of the Courtauld Commitment 2025, which aims to reduce food and drink waste in the UK by 20 percent.
“Tackling food waste makes sense for business, it will help people and our planet, and it’s also the right thing to do,” Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said in a keynote speech at the Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum in Cape Town last week, where he urged businesses to do more to tackle food waste.
“When I arrived at Tesco, we were the only UK retail company to publish our food waste data,” Lewis added in a blog post. “What that data shows clearly is where we need to focus our efforts – so it’s really important that other retailers share their data in this way, too.”
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Yet, Tesco has found that it still has a lot more work to do. According to its recent data, food waste in its UK operations increased by over 2,000 tonnes from the 2014/2015 to the 2015/2016 financial year. The company says that the 59,400 tonnes of food wasted in the last fiscal year is equivalent to about 1 percent of the number of food products sold, and that most of it came from bakery and beers, wine and spirits.
Coincidentally, bakery and beer waste may be complementary. Glasgow, Scotland’s Chamber of Commerce recently released a new study that suggests the waste from making bread could be used in the brewing process, and that spent grain from brewing can be used to replace up to half the flour needed to produce bread.
The city’s West Brewery already turns spent grains from its brewing process into flapjacks and bar snacks, which it sells across Scotland. Leftover bread is already being used by brewers in England and Belgium. Bakeries can also use heat exchangers in their ovens to save up to 30 percent of the energy used in the baking process.
The study was intended to investigate how Glasgow can adopt new ways of working that would facilitate collaboration, improve sales and increase profits while reducing the city’s environmental impact. The chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland said the recycling plan proposed by the survey could ensure sustainable management of natural resources and deliver economic growth.
“Glasgow is a city which moves with the times, looking for new opportunities which will help out city, citizens and businesses grow and prosper,” said City Council leader Frank McAveety. “We are therefore hugely supportive of growing our circular economy which harnesses products no longer of use to one business and passes it on to another which can make use of it.”
The city claims it is only the second in the world to undergo an in-depth survey into its circular economy potential.
Meanwhile, here in the States, Ohio-based BiOWiSH Technologies has developed an organic enzyme-based product that can be added to commercial fruit and vegetable wash systems to prolong the lifespan of fruits and vegetables, one of the largest sources of food waste. The treatment, BiOWiSH Fruit & Vegetable Wash, is made of active microbial cultures and dextrose.
The company claims that the product can keep fruits and vegetables “looking fresh for weeks longer than untreated produce” while eliminating latex issues. BiOWiSH’s product replaces some of the wash chemicals, which it says in turn reduces odors, water and energy use, cleaning and labor.
A recent case study compared post-harvest banana clusters treated with BiOWiSH Fruit & Vegetable Wash against clusters treated with a traditional aluminum sulfate wash to eliminate latex and dust. The findings showed that nine days after treatment, the bananas washed with the latter were yellowed and had brown spots, while those treated with the BiOWiSH product were green and had less post-harvest defects.