UNILEVER, NESTLÉ UK&I and 3663 are setting an example for caterers facing the tricky task of sending less waste to landfill, writes David Burrows.
Dealing with waste in a sector like foodservice isn’t easy – the lines of responsibility are easily blurred. But there is help at hand thanks to the progress being made by three companies looking to dramatically cut the waste they send to landfill.
In the space of a couple of weeks, Unilever and Nestlé UK&I announced they have hit their “zero waste to landfill” targets in the UK. For Unilever, this equates to about a million household bins of waste now being recycled, composted, reused or recovered rather than buried. This has been achieved during a period when sales have increased by around 20%.
Nestlé UK&I, meanwhile, has hit its target two years early. Announced in 2010, the plan was to divert all factory waste from landfill by 2015 but it seems the food manufacturer, which supplies the foodservice industry through Nestlé Professional, has got ahead of itself. And that means adjusting its sights.
The aim now, explains the head of environmental sustainability, Inder Poonaji, is to cut waste by 5% by 2014 along the supply chain. Farmers have already been engaged and there is an appetite to help Nestlé fulfil its commitment, so Poonaji and his team are turning their attention to catering clients. “We’ve done the easy wins,” he adds, “so now we need to crank things up by moving along the supply chain. I think there is a real understanding and a genuine desire to good for the environment [in foodservice], but companies are not sure how to go about it.”
Nestlé UK&I will be working closely with WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) to help map waste as it is created along the supply chain. It’s “quite a big task” says Poonaji, but the costs of the programme so far will be recouped within two years and there are more savings to be made.
Another company that has set about measuring waste in the foodservice chain more accurately is 3663. The distributor has teamed up with SITA UK, the waste management company, to run a “3663 zero” scheme which will provide customers with waste collection services. But, as the manager of the not-for-profit initiative, Bernadette Chamley, explains, it will also give customers valuable management information by looking at materials delivered to and collected from each of 3663’s sites. Larger customers will be offered “closed loop” reports showing what has gone in and come out.
Collecting data on waste is not easy or cheap, but as more companies expand their sustainability ambitions up the supply chain, caterers will be under more pressure to look at their own operations. The voluntary agreement on waste is also now in place, so the chances for co-operation and sharing of best practice will improve as waste tonnages sent to landfill fall.