Turning our waste into our treasures

Column 28-2-19 SM Farm

With consumers becoming more concerned about the environment, food and drinks producers are under pressure to be more resourceful and environmentally friendly when developing new products.

WRAP reported that the UK wastes almost £20 billion of food annually of which approximately 85 per cent (by weight) comes from households and food manufacturing.

The influence of campaigns like WRAPs ‘Love Food Hate Waste’, alongside council-based waste collection schemes, has helped to heighten consumers’ awareness of the issues around food waste.

It says that since 2007 consumers have saved £3.4 billion a year on household food waste.

The connection between sav-ing food, saving money and consequently saving the planet has given rise to some changes in consumer behaviours – for example, shopping more frequently to cut down on the amount of food bought, being willing to buy wonky fruit and vegetables, cutting down on packaging waste, controlling portion sizes and cooking more often.

Mintel (2018) reported: “Food waste is firmly on consumers’ radars, even more so than packaging waste, signalling that signposting steps to reduce the former would find most favour with consumers.”

As food waste has become a recognisable term among consumers, it provides food and drink producers with the opportunity to respond to demand by creating value added products which place emphasis on qualities like resourcefulness and sustainability.

Turning food waste into a resource can help your company to reduce any negative environmental impact.

This type of initiative is known as ‘Industrial Symbiosis’ which WRAP describes as “a concept that seeks to create an association between two or more industrial facilities or companies in which the wastes or by-products of one become the raw materials for another”.

Industrial Symbiosis can help companies to identify a new revenue stream while reducing the amount that goes to landfill and can positively contribute to a company’s CSR activity.

Companies that focus on waste reduction may find favour with the more environmentally conscious consumer.

Here are some examples of successful collaborations where together companies have repurposed food waste to bring a new product to market:

Founded by Tristram Stuart, Toast Ale is a Yorkshire-based brewing company that makes beer from surplus bread.

The firm says that 44 per cent of bread in the UK is wasted. They collect the waste bread from retailers and food service providers to produce its award-winning beer.

The success of this product has resulted in collaborations with other brewers across the UK and in five other countries, raising a

total of £12,558 for its charity Feedback.

More recently, cereal giant Kellogg’s has produced a pale ale in collaboration with Seven Bro7hers called Throw Away IPA, using rejected corn flakes to replace the wheat grain in the beer mix (Mintel, 2018).

Another interesting company is Rubies in the Rubble, which makes a range of condiments ‘with a conscience’ by using surplus fruit and vegetables from farmers.

Recently it has launched a new mayonnaise using the aquafaba from surplus protein-rich water left over from cooking chickpeas.

Aquafaba is often used as an egg white replacement, making it a great ingredient in the development of vegan and dairy free products such as ice cream, butter and meringues.

While these examples of Industrial Symbiosis have discussed food waste being repurposed into new food products, not all by-products need to be turned into something edible.

For example, Melbourne cosmetic-based company Frank Body, which makes skincare products, upcycles coffee grounds to make a body scrub.

Biobean transforms the grounds into logs and pellets to fuel fireplaces.

Aeropowder, meanwhile, uses feathers left over from the poultry industry to produce a high performance insulation textile which is then covered with a compostable food liner.

This has the dual benefit of using otherwise discarded poultry waste while reducing the amount of non-biodegradable packaging needed to transport food.

In a sector that operates on tight margins, finding creative ways to identify and harness the properties of by-products and waste could play an important role in creating a more efficient, sustainable food industry in Northern Ireland.

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