Waste Not
Why the Brits Continue to Lead in Reducing Food, Beverage Waste

In this week's roundup, UK-based organizations continue to lead the charge against food and beverage-related waste.

First, grocery giant Asda has revealed the results of a customer-focused behavior change campaign; Frugalpac launched a new hot beverage cup that is made from recycled paper and can be recycled in any normal paper or cardboard facility; and egg processing plant Just Egg found a way to redirect its eggshell waste.

Asda’s recent campaign against domestic food waste drove positive behavior change among its customers, the company reported on July 19. In partnership with the University of Leeds, Asda undertook a series of multi-channel actions based on customer insights, including providing shoppers with advice on food storage, labeling and leftovers recipe inspiration, as well as hosting in-store events where shoppers were encouraged to make changes at home.

Research from the university showed that 81 percent of customers planned to follow the advice provided, and 2 million customers reported they are making changes at home as a result of the campaign. Asda customers have saved an average of £57 a year since the campaign’s launch.

“As a major food retailer, we have a responsibility and the ability to bring about large scale change when it comes to tackling food waste. By partnering with the University of Leeds, the team has been able to take our insight and really explore this area, meaning that we now have a greater understanding of customer attitude and behavior, helping shape the way we communicate with our customers and ultimately the way we do business,” said Asda’s chief customer officer Andy Murray.

“However, our commitment to food waste doesn’t end here. While helping our customers live more sustainably is a step in the right direction, we understand the importance of addressing this issue throughout our entire supply chain. This is just one of many initiatives we are undertaking as we aim to tackle the issue in collaboration with everyone from our customers and suppliers, to our colleagues’ in-store.”

The release of the campaign results coincides with the publication of the Asda 2016 Green Britain Index, a customer insights report based on the views of the 20,000 people on Asda’s “Everyday Experts” panel. The latest edition of the report focused on sustainability and food waste, and revealed that 85 percent of the respondents look to retailers to help them reduce food waste at home. Furthermore, 93 percent of Asda customers care about “being green,” and 72 percent admitted they had stopped buying a product because they found it would go to waste.

The findings come amidst a swell of activism against food waste in the UK, which just last year was found to be the worst-performing European country in terms of food waste. Since then, Asda and other supermarkets have sprung into action. For example, Sainsbury’s has sponsored a town to test waste-reducing ideas, M&S expanded its surplus redistribution scheme, and Asda recently partnered with Hasbro and eBay to promote its “Wonky Veg” line of imperfect produce by way of a one-of-a-kind Mr. Potato Head. Awareness campaigns and spotlights on television such as Hugh’s War on Waste, a show hosted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, have gone a long way in getting Brits to pay attention to the massive problem of food waste.

Fearnley-Whittingstall has also used his show to raise the issue of coffee cup waste. Only a small fraction – estimated at less than 0.25 percent – of the nearly 3 billion paper cups used each year in the UK are currently recycled. This is in part because there are only two specialist facilities in the UK that can separate the cups’ plastic and paper for recycling. As a result of his campaign, the packaging industry and major coffee retailers including Starbucks, McDonald’s and Costa launched a Paper Cup Manifesto in June 2016 with the objective of significantly increasing paper cup recovery and recycling rates by 2020.

“It’s great to see Hugh’s campaign has had such an effect and that there’s now a real commitment across the industry to tackle this problem. People were shocked to learn that existing paper cups are only used once and rarely get recycled,” said entrepreneur Martin Myerscough.

Myerscough is the CEO of Frugalpac, a new company which today (July 21) launched a new cup made from recycled paper that can be recycled in normal paper mills. His team has spent the last two years developing the Frugalpac cup, which he says is competitively priced and looks, feels and performs just like a conventional cup, but with half the carbon footprint and the ability to be disposed of in any paper or cardboard recycling bin.

“The unique way we make our cups allows us to use recycled paper and not virgin cardboard from mature trees. It also means we don’t have to add waterproofing agents to the paper. Our cups are acceptable to all normal paper mills,” Myerscough said. “We really hope that Frugalpac becomes the standard in the industry so people can get on with enjoying their coffee without worrying about what damage the cup does to the environment afterwards!”

Frugalpac cups are made by making recycled paper into a cup first, without adding chemicals, then applying a thin plastic liner to the inside. The liner is rolled over the lip of the cup to help create a normal look, feel and function, but the liner is so lightly glued in place that it separates from the paper in a standard paper mill recycling process. The way Frugalpac cups are made allows them to be recycled up to 7 times (although typically as newspapers, which do not usually require high quality paper).

The startup had its cup tested by independent inspection, product testing and certification company Intertek, which compared the Frugalcup against current cups which use virgin paper. The Frugalpac cup’s carbon footprint was 24.6g of carbon dioxide (CO2) provided the cup was taken to a recycling centre, while the carbon footprint of a conventional cup was 39.4g of CO2 if it went to a landfill and 42.3g of CO2 if it was incinerated.

The Intertek report concluded, “The Frugalpac cup has the lowest carbon footprint. This is due to its recycled content as well as its recyclability at the end of its life. The conventional cups have higher carbon footprints because they are made from virgin paper and currently cannot be recycled in normal UK municipal waste streams.”

For conventional cups, there is also another disposal option in the UK. Last month, Nextek and recycling manufacturer AShortWalk unveiled their new resin, NextCupCycle, which is made from paper coffee cups. The resin is up to 40 percent stronger than conventional plastics and is being used for cafeteria products in select locations in London.

Meanwhile, egg processing plant Just Egg has hatched its own ideas about reinforcing plastics with waste. The Leicester-based facility hard boils and peels about 1.5 million eggs every week for snacks such as egg mayonnaise and Scotch eggs, leading to huge amounts of shells that must be disposed of. The company’s owner, Pankaj Pancholi, says it costs him around £50,000 a year.

In 2012, Pancholi teamed up with Professor Andy Abbott and scientists at Leicester University to find a cost-effective, sustainable way to recycle the shells, according to The Guardian. Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate, like chalk, with a tough crystalline structure. Chalk is often used as a filler to reinforce plastic, and Abbott is hoping they can do the same with eggshell powder.

Since then, an eggshell processing plant has been built as an extension of Just Egg’s existing factory, which allows them to be treated and turned into powder quickly enough to avoid rot. The eggshells pass through on a conveyor belt, are chopped up with blades and are washed and treated with a water-based solution to remove any lingering egg protein. Further blades reduce the shells into a fine powder, which is dried to become the filler.

“I don’t like good quality stuff going in the landfill,” Pancholi said of his motivation for the initiative, which he has invested about £300,000 in so far. “But if there’s an economic benefit that that will be the icing on the cake.”

Abbott believes that the eggshell powder will be a big cost-saving opportunity for businesses. Polypropylene plastics are £2,000 a tonne, he told The Guardian, “so you can save a fortune by putting 30 to 40 percent of eggshell in there as a filler.” At the same time, 12.2 billion eggs were consumed in the UK in 2015, and each egg produces about 15 grams of shell. Abbott’s team is also working on a similar eggshell waste project with Freshpak, a Barnsley-based sandwich filler company that boils 5 million eggs a week.

Pancholi has not yet sold any of the powdered eggshell, and has been stockpiling it in anticipation of the first order. He expects the scheme will pay for itself in the next five years as the company saves on rising landfill costs.


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