Steve Eminton, editor of letsrecycle.com shares best practice.
Today’s consumers expect retailers to be environmentally responsible. Aside from ‘doing the right thing’, demonstrating your green credentials presents an excellent opportunity for PR and marketing, and sets you apart from your competitors.
Fortunately, the majority of grocery waste is easily recyclable – materials such as cardboard, plastic film and even food waste.
Food waste became one of the major issues in 2014, and there are a number of ways to deal with unsellable food, bringing social, economic and environmental benefits. For surplus food redistribution charity FareShare feeds over 82,000 people each day and provides over 13 million meals a year – from what would otherwise end up as waste.
Supply chain excess that doesn’t make it to our shelves can often be turned into animal feed: British food recycler SugaRich processes over 350,000 tonnes of surplus food each year, converting it into nutritious food for farm animals and keeping food in the food chain.
If these two options aren’t suitable, then anaerobic digestion of food waste is the next best solution. This involves treating the food waste in an oxygen-free environment to generate methane, which is then used as a fuel to generate electricity.
Sainsbury’s recently set up a unique energy deal with Biffa to process all its unsellable food at Europe’s largest food waste anaerobic digestion facility in Cannock. The renewable energy generated is supplied back to the local Sainsbury’s store – which is now completely off-grid for its day-to-day energy requirements.
The Co-operative is also trailblazing in waste reduction, initiating a successful backhauling programme that has seen recycling levels soar whilst transport costs have plummeted. Affectionately termed “Project Womble”, this and other similar programmes are taking trucks off the road and reducing logistics costs while making materials available for recycling.
Supermarkets are also helping consumers reduce waste by providing more information on food storage, recipes for leftovers, different portion sizes and products in re-sealable packaging. Reducing two-for-one deals has led to new deals such as “Buy One Get One Free Later” and the option to mix and match more with deals so consumers don’t have to buy more of one product than they need.
Companies that have successfully implemented waste reduction and recycling projects are encouraged to enter the annual Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management, organised by letsreycle.com.
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