THE INTRODUCTION of backhauling schemes and the development of a new anaerobic digestion (AD) plant are among the cost-saving options considered in a new research project designed to help pubs, bars and restaurants reduce waste.
Project Dragon was commissioned by the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum, which represents 13,500 pubs and restaurants including the likes of JD Wetherspoon, Mitchells & Butlers and Nando’s. Collectively, members were found to be spending £46m a year on waste management. In spite of the growing number of AD plants in the UK, half of their food waste – 150,000 tonnes – is still ending up in landfill, which attracts high gate fees and taxes.
Legislation in Scotland and the hospitality and foodservice voluntary waste agreement elsewhere in the UK are also piling pressure on businesses to find more sustainable outlets for waste. With utility costs expected to rise at least 30% in the next three years, companies will have to increase their turnover by more than 10% just to maintain their business margins.
“The sector is up against it,” explains Peter Charlesworth from the consultants Carbon Statement. “Scottish legislation due in 2014 will largely end the dumping of food waste to landfill, landfill costs are rising and fuel prices are continuing to drive up delivery and collection costs.”
Given these pressures, not to mention corporate responsibility implications, the forum tasked Charlesworth and his team to investigate how to divert more food away from landfill and ensure cost-efficient access to AD. The findings have just been published in a 44-page report.
Charlesworth says there needs to be a “wholesale change in the way that companies manage their waste streams and their contractual relationship with the waste providers”. Transport holds the key, he tells Footprint: “It’s the highest cost element in waste management.”
But collaboration among the forum’s members, as well as the introduction of back hauling, could help cut costs by almost a third. The more companies involved, the lower the costs. “We can significantly improve efficiency by collaborating on waste collection, making effective use of backhauling using the current distribution logistics operators and other companies who distribute products to the hospitality sector sites,” the report reads. “There are significant savings possible by the sector collaborating on waste collections. From the statements and commercials received in managing this project the savings are in the order of 30%.”
Charlesworth says there is interest, among those forum members he has spoken to, in looking at where collaboration could work.
There are also opportunities for waste contractors. The hospitality sector could provide “between 15% and 25%” of the extra AD capacity coming on stream in the next two years. There are 28 AD plants that have a capacity of more than 20,000 tonnes a year and facilities to handle food waste. Charlesworth expects this to increase to at least 67 by the end of 2016. These will all need quality feedstock, creating a larger demand for food waste and a more competitive market.
All the forum’s members currently pay for food waste to be collected and do not receive revenue from the energy generated. This will have to change. The report highlights a “willingness for the AD companies to strike a deal with the members that will enable them to secure food waste supply for a period of time and in return provide a gate fee reduction and index-link it to the price of electricity”.
Charlesworth hopes to explore the details of the contract terms in the next phase of the project, which will also include pilots to put some of the suggestions into action. This includes the possible construction of an AD plant dedicated to taking food waste from members. Nando’s has been approached by the food waste recycler AMP to scope out whether this is commercially viable. Charlesworth admits that it probably isn’t. Other pilots include the use of Biffa’s plant in Cannock as an outlet for the forum’s food waste and the next step is to determine which of the pilots are viable – and to get hospitality and waste businesses involved. The benefits could be far-reaching.
Chris George, Whitbread Group’s head of energy and environment, says the focus on collaboration will mean members “benefit from reduced landfill charges and transportation costs, reduced carbon emissions as we start to generate off site energy, and improved environmental impact, as we’ll be doing more for less”.