This image is courtesy of www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au The Waste Hierarchy is how we , both businesses and homes, should consider waste, with the very last option being to dispose. This image effectively shows which of the seven steps are better for the environment and for our wallets / budgets. AVOID Simply not having packaging material or extra product coming into a business is the single best way to reduce a business's waste. So there are four questions that every business must ask when it comes to avoiding waste at each stage of it's process, especially at product or recipe development;
- Do we really need that material / product?
- Is there another material / product we can use instead?
- How can we get maximum use of the material / product?
- Can we get the material / product with minimum packaging?
REDUCE It is definitely cheaper to buy in bulk and it also proportionately reduces the amount of packaging as well. If a business has the storage capacity to purchase in bulk, this is a good way to reduce waste, especially when combined with the other steps in the Hierarchy. The other issue to be taken into account when reducing waste is to use as much as possible of a material and be prepared to accept fruits and vegetable that are not "perfect". If the skin has to come off to serve it, then does it matter if it had blemishes or is the "wrong" shape? Buying materials that are already portion controlled has a significant impact of reducing food waste, however the extra packaging will need to be considered. REUSE So food businesses have a lot of food waste, it is the nature of the game. What can be done with it instead of throwing it away. There are businesses that collect food waste, this allows the material to be reused and does not become waste. It can also be just one of the many ways that a business can actually make waste pay. Plastic bottles can be processed and made into almost anything, like bags. This is reusing. RECYCLE This is the Waste Hierarchy step that everyone knows and most are doing but it should only be done after the first three steps have been undertaken. Many confuse recycling with reusing. Just about everything now can be recycled. This means that it is processed into a new version of itself. The best example is glass. Used clean glass bottle should always be collected and they can then be remade into new bottles. Paper is another good example, office paper can be processed and become recycled paper for use in other offices. In fact the best type of recycled paper is that which has already been used once and then converted, this is known as post consumer recycled paper. Business should choose to only use this post consumer recycled paper for printing and office use as this significantly reduces it's Carbon Footprint. All businesses should have bins set up to allow staff to place the correct items into the right place to give it opportunities to recycle and reuse. RECOVER If a material cannot be reused or recycled, then it should be recovered so it does not go to the dump. Recovering means collecting it so it may be able to be processed and be a source of energy. A good example would be the bagasse that is produced from the production of sugar. The material remaining after the sugar is produced from the cane, can be used when dried to be a fuel source for the sugar factory and other businesses. TREAT If a material cannot be recovered, it should be treated to make it reusable, recyclable or recoverable. This should only be done if the process used does not in itself become a contributor to the Carbon Footprint of the business. DISPOSE Only after all of the other steps have been undertaken, should a material be disposed of. In many cases now, businesses have little or no need for waste disposal as they have found ways to avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, or treat all materials and are making money doing so. Disposal has been the traditional way for all food businesses to deal with waste and it has been a expense to the business. Now businesses are finding that by changing the way they do things and spending a little to set up the arrangements, the long term benefits in terms of finance, environment and social impact are enormous. In fact, many businesses are now wondering why they did not do it sooner. Technology has dramatically helped these businesses and the options now available to eliminate waste are huge. I have an ebook available "The Green Food Safety Guide - Solid Waste" which will help every food business manage it's waste so it will not need to dispose of it. It can be found here.