GILES WHITELEY, CEO of Specialist Waste Recycling crystal ball gazes the 2014 waste agenda
There is nothing like an open question to get the grey cells working, so to arrive back into the office after the Christmas break to a request from the guys at Footprint for my thoughts on the changing waste agenda in 2014 forced me to shake off the cobwebs faster than usual.
Starting at the beginning I have tried to identify the key factors that will influence the waste agenda in Foodservice this year; the drivers. Whilst the list could be much longer there are four that stand out:
Cost: The cost of removing waste and recycling from businesses will increase again this year with genuine underlying reasons. The cost incurred by the waste industry of dealing with waste has increased significantly in recent years and is likely to continue to do so for some time yet.
Measurement: Largely due to the fact that the cost of disposal per kilo is now so high we can expect to see more and more waste companies weighing bins. Essentially this is to ensure the companies producing the most waste are paying a commensurate fee.
Media and public interest in food waste: I think we can expect with some certainly that the increased attention that we saw in 2013 will continue well into 2014. Journalists will seek out the stories and consumers will ask more questions of the businesses that they frequent.
The impact of new Scottish regulation: As of this month food waste is banned from Scottish landfills and any company producing more than 50kg of food waste per week must present it separately for collection.
I think the foodservice industry could feel a little picked on and hard done by come the end of 2014. Your bins tend to be heavy, and in some cases I mean really HEAVY. The expected weight of a full standard commercial general waste bin is 80kg; as a rule of thumb this is what you are being charged for the removal of. Those businesses putting food waste into general waste are going to have bins that weigh considerably more. 140kg is very common and we see weights of up to a quarter of a tonne regularly. The rising costs of disposal mean that for anything much over 100kg, a waste company is likely to start to lose money (unless high weights were factored into pricing). The problem starts to become clear and we start to understand why the majority of waste companies are investing in weighing equipment on vehicles. Testament to this is that around a third of waste companies in the UK won’t have made any profit in 2013.
So the waste bills of foodservice businesses are likely to increase more than most other types of business in 2014; but realistically only to a level commensurate to the amount of waste that was previously going undetected. I see two impacts here; firstly uptake of separate food waste collections will increase as they are cheaper per kilo of waste, but perhaps more importantly more focus will turn to reduction of food waste within businesses. A greater understanding of the causes of waste will develop (as a commercial imperative) and initiatives to reduce food waste will increase. Many studies have shown that the true cost of food waste lies not in the waste collections but in the cost of the food that goes into the bins – thus any increase in collection costs will be more than mitigated by those businesses that are proactive.
Thus the first two drivers may influence a positive change on which the industry can capitalise in light of the attention that is being placed on the issue by the media and in turn customers. Smart businesses will embrace the issue and use to positive PR and marketing effect.
Knowing how our media like to produce a bad news story or create a villain I suspect some of our larger foodservices businesses could come under some close scrutiny once journalists have moved on from the big supermarket chains. My advice to those companies is to make sure waste features prominently in your CSR objectives and to have some realistic and meaningful goals set out for 2014.
And last but by no means least, Scotland, whose government is taking a lead on the waste agenda, with foodservice businesses being impacted most. Those firms with operations both north and south of the border will be using Scotland as a test bed this year to see what voluntary changes they may wish to adopt further south. Smart businesses in England will be watching and learning closely from the Scottish experience. SWR has a lot of customers in Scotland that it has been helping prepare for the changes and I hope to be able to share experiences and case studies with the Footprint audience as the year progresses.
For now Happy new year from us all at SWR; I hope it is a very good one for you all.
Giles Whiteley is Chief Executive of SWR, a waste management company that specialises in working with specific sectors (one of these being the hospitality and foodservice sector) to maximise sustainable disposal and reduce waste management costs. He joined SWR in 2007 having worked in the Telecoms industry for 10 years and prior to that been a business consultant to manufacturing companies. Giles joined SWR seeing a huge opportunity for the company to do things fundamentally differently to the competition.
“The way businesses want to manage waste is changing at a pace that waste companies are often not keeping up with. SWR works in a way that enables our customers to meet their goals and consistently improve environmental performance."