Food and Drink industry shows the way – but what’s next?

Like many industry professionals, I was delighted to read earlier this month that the food and drink industry has made significant strides towards the waste reduction targets set out by the Courtauld Commitment and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action programme). The greatest improvement was seen in the supply chain, where a reduction of 8.8% was achieved against a target of 5%. It’s great to see such wonderful results that reflect all of the hard work and commitment shown by everyone involved in the project.

These results have been achieved in numerous ways, from reducing the amount of glass in bottled packaging to investing in reusable plastic crates to transport products. Much has also been done to educate staff at production facilities on how they can work more efficiently, whilst from a logistics point of view, many companies have improved delivery and reduced road miles generated by transporting products.

The third phase of the Courtauld Commitment will seek to push these reductions even further and as energy use comes under more scrutiny, pressure will be placed on food manufacturers to improve the way they operate. Factories already use a huge amount of power and water, so any machinery that can reduce energy usage will be worth its weight in gold. We’re not yet at the stage where business will be won or lost on environmental performance, but we’re not far off either. Taking a look into the future will certainly stand a business in good stead.

In order to continue introducing such savings, manufacturers from all industries should be looking to reduce their energy consumption. From a supplier’s perspective, it’s actually surprising how few clients seem interested in learning about power reduction. Many factories have begun to install LED lighting at sites, which are far more energy efficient than the tube lights traditionally used. But far fewer manufacturers are aware of the massive amounts of energy out dated and power hungry transformers use. Modern switch mode supplies and the latest switchboards are far more efficient and flexible, requiring less space and energy to run and should definitely be incorporated into packaging lines to help tackle this issue.

Finally, manufacturers need to minimise the amount of materials they discard through faulty, or inaccurate packages. Simple innovations, such as bottom based handling systems result in extremely accurate packages with no reduction in speed. By arranging products discharges quickly and consistently, they also greatly reduce the chances of ‘product in seal’ becoming a problem, meaning that fewer bags are rejected.

The work WRAP and the leading retailers, brand owners, manufacturers and suppliers involved in the project have completed so far is admirable and I’m sure they’ll agree that it would be a great shame if this progress was not built upon further. One of the areas where this could certainly be achieved is in environmental responsiveness; a field where any good supplier will be able to consult with their clients on how long-term savings and reductions can be made.