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Food Futures: Unlocking New Value from Waste

The Hospitality and Food Service Agreement (HaFSA Agreement) is a voluntary agreement which aims to support reducing waste and recycling more.  In 2014, the agreement had achieved a 3.6% reduction in food and packaging waste and a 57% recycling rate. There was also a 47% increase in surplus HaFS food going to charities and food banks and a £3.6 million cost saving to businesses as a result of reducing waste food. These are fantastic achievements, and WRAP have certainly made strides towards reducing waste in the HAFS sector, but what’s next? I went along to a working group meeting last week to find out more.

The Food Futures report encourages businesses to go “from business as usual to business unusual” The report details the risks to the UK food system if we don’t change our approach to manufacturing, selling and consumption of food; the opportunities that developing a flexible, intelligent and transparent supply chain will open; and how an unusual approach will enable the sector to respond flexibly to changes in demand.

The report is split into 12 sections, here in this blog I’m going to focus on what we’re good at: unlocking new value from wastes.

UK companies are now at a point where they’ve made significant reductions in waste that is being sent to landfill, utilising anaerobic digestion and energy-from-waste as preferred options. However, there’s always room for improvement. The Food Futures report looks at ways we can use our waste to create new products and value using biological and chemical biorefining techniques. For example, 8 million tonnes of olive pulp is generated in Southern Europe per year. Through a process called enzymatic hydrolysis and glucose fermentation we can make fuel. Meanwhile, the UK seafood industry produces large amounts of crab and prawn shells. Chitin from the shells can be used as a bioabsorbent to recover metals from effluent created during the manufacturing of circuit boards. In addition, the technique also has the potential to recover rare and endangered metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium. There are further examples using oranges, meat, wine, bakery products and cheese. All these methods allow the sector to produce multiple products from something that had previously been a waste stream representing a disposal cost.

Unlocking the value from our waste is not without risks. Competition for resources would be top of that list, if the competition for renewable materials increases, it would raise the question of what process should get priority, energy generation, animal feed, industries, a growth medium or fertiliser. Contamination is another well-known issue when it comes to food waste. If there were health scares associated with by-product contamination, people would not be as willing to accept alternative techniques, slowing down uptake.

You can read the Food Futures report here. The report goes into detail on the 12 different ways we can go from business as usual to business unusual.

At Paper Round we actively support WRAP and their campaigns by always making sure your waste is taking the most environmentally friendly route possible. All food waste is sent for Anaerobic Digestion, as recommended by WRAP.

Emily Morrey-McGrath

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