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How Can FMs Avoid Food Waste and Reduce Carbon Emissions in 2023?

How Can FMs Avoid Food Waste and Reduce Carbon Emissions in 2023?
17 January 2023

Organisations are striving to reduce their carbon footprint, and with food waste topping waste streams, the reduction and prevention of food waste should be a priority for FMs.

With this ever-increasing focus on sustainability and “green” strategies, facilities management (FM) teams are responsible for supporting their clients with the reduction, and prevention, of food waste in 2023. Huw Crampton – food waste expert at Tidy Planet – shares his thoughts further on the topic.

Huw is a food waste and composting expert with over 17 years of experience within the waste organics industry. He is also the sales manager at Tidy Planet - a specialist provider of commercial food waste composting, recycling, and minimisation solutions.




What Does the Environment Act Mean for England’s Businesses?


It’s important to first set the scene, as in 2023, there are big changes on the way regarding how organisations are able to deal with their food waste. This is outlined in the Government’s Environment Act – which comes into effect this year – and will introduce mandatory separate food and general waste collections.

The Act aims to eliminate food waste from landfill by 2030, so this means three key things for organisations across both the private and public sectors:


  • Food waste will need to be sent from the site as a clean, separate waste stream – either for composting or gas generation.
  • Food waste can’t be mixed with general or other waste.
  • Food waste will no longer be allowed to be sent to sewer by maceration or digestion.


With FM teams being responsible for supporting their clients’ corporate responsibility strategies, they have a duty of care for all waste produced on-site. Therefore, FMs need to help their clients comply with the upcoming legislation, by implementing compliant and innovative technologies that reduce businesses’ environmental impact.


Preventing Leftover Food From Becoming Waste is Key


Despite large-scale organisations, such as corporate HQs and manufacturing facilities, putting measures in place to reduce their carbon footprint and waste figures in line with WRAP’s food and drink material hierarchy – many sites are actually overlooking a key solution when it comes to food waste.

Sitting at the top of the pyramid in the green section is the “prevention” of waste, the “ideal” category that all organisations are – and quite rightly should be –focusing their attention.

However, for wastes that are unavoidable, this sees many businesses and facilities management teams procuring items that are recyclable, crossing over from the green “prevention” section into the orange one – “waste”.


What’s Missing From the Food and Drink Material Hierarchy?


The hierarchy model seeks to minimise the impact “waste” has on the environment. It ranks the various waste management approaches in order of preferability – with prevention at the top, followed by recycling, recovery, and disposal.  

It’s a model that organisations have been and are continuing to apply when managing their waste streams, but there seems to be something vital missing.

Looking at WRAP’s food and drink material hierarchy, there is a clear gap between the green “prevention” and the orange “waste” sections.

In the context of food waste, this gap effectively marks the point that it becomes a “waste”. It is when it is shipped off-site to be dealt with by a third party.

But what if the concept of waste was never created in the first place?


FMs Have the Ability to Significantly Reduce Clients’ Carbon Emissions


By changing the way food surplus is viewed, facilities management teams can help their clients to prevent “waste” from being created – bridging the gap in the pyramid, at the same time.

By converting it into compost at the source where it is generated, it never actually becomes a “waste” at all, rather a valuable resource. This would pave the way for a new section within the hierarchy – representing on-site management of the material.

Essentially, it is only when companies’ leftover food is transported off-site – to large composting or anaerobic digestion facilities – that it starts growing a large onward carbon footprint.

Not only is it transported off-site in large trucks, but vast amounts of energy are then used to process it. And if it is being converted into compost at a large-scale facility, it’s then re-loaded into yet another vehicle to various bagging plants, distribution centres, and ultimately, garden centres, across the country.

However, this can be avoided if FMs embrace innovation and harness on-site industrial composting technology. And by closing the loop on-site, FMs are supporting clients’ corporate responsibility strategies to be more sustainable and lessen their environmental impact.

With this method, there’s no carbon footprint from off-site transportation costs, and it no longer appears in the waste summary charts from third-party waste management partners. Instead, it’s a closed-loop model that helps the business to reduce both its carbon and its costs, fostering greater environmental and financial sustainability.

To make this a reachable reality though, language also needs to change. The term waste should be swapped for food scraps, leftovers, and residues. This will help to reprofile the material to be viewed as an opportunity, as opposed to a problem.


How Sodexo Helped AstraZeneca Close the Food Waste Loop


AstraZeneca’s 100-acre manufacturing site – located in Cheshire – is one of the many organisations to have adopted such a model. It achieved this via its FM partner, Sodexo, who manages the delivery of the food service across the business.

The multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical giant needed a circular solution for the 24 tonnes of annual food and green waste being generated at its Cheshire site.

This decision to close the food waste management loop at source formed part of AstraZeneca’s wider sustainability target to reduce waste and embrace a circular economy. And as part of this environmental commitment, the company is also aiming to achieve zero-carbon status, by 2025.

The Sodexo and AstraZeneca FM teams collectively reviewed the options, with the outcome being the purchase of an A900 Rocket Composter.

The introduction of the composter means that organic waste is now segregated in the restaurant kitchen, then fed into the on-site in-vessel composter – to create a nutrient-rich resource in just 14 days.

This has helped the firm save on off-site costs and carbon emissions, and the horticultural team also uses the resulting compost across the campus.


What’s Next for Food Waste Management in FM?


Ultimately, through knowing what’s possible with on-site composting, and changing the way food ‘waste’ is managed and perceived, FM companies can enable their clients to take swift and meaningful action to both reduce their environmental impact and increase their bottom-line benefits.

The new food waste legislation, coupled with an even sharper focus on sustainability and carbon reduction, means businesses want to see more innovation than ever before from their FM partners, in order to futureproof their operations. And on-site composting certainly offers some food for thought in this respect.

Picture: a photograph of a banana that's becoming over-ripe. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 17 January 2023


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