Food manufacturing companies may not play as large a role in the problem of food waste as downstream consumers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for process improvements. New technology solutions afford food production companies an opportunity to tighten processes and reduce waste management costs.
With an on-site biodigester, food production organizations can address both ends of the food waste problem. This equipment provides data around food waste that can drive process improvements to reduce waste while minimizing the labor needed for costly waste hauling. As many food production organizations are finding, there’s a strong business case for taking action on sustainable food waste management.
What is food production waste?
Food manufacturing waste is a normal, if expensive, part of the food manufacturing process. Many food manufacturers factor in about 5% waste within their food processes under normal production conditions. This waste occurs for a range of reasons. The biggest problem is when food is received damaged or spoiled, but other reasons include switching to new product lines or calibrating packaging to meet standards.
However, there is an operational cost to this food manufacturing waste that goes beyond simply the wasted material. The real cost of food production waste must include the time and labor spent upon waste management. The cost of hauling waste off-site can be steep for organizations that may need multiple commercial pickups. Moreover, many states and cities are putting mandates in place requiring composting or other alternatives to landfill disposal for organic waste. This measure is meant to reduce the environmental impact of the disposal of organic waste: food left to decompose in landfills in the absence of oxygen releases dangerous levels of methane as a byproduct.
Finally, there is the cost of the labor required to transport waste to bins. It’s the type of menial, repetitive task that can add strain to workers’ backs and wear down job efficiency and satisfaction.
For small food and drink production companies in particular, the cost of waste management can add up fast.
How can manufacturers reduce food waste?
Research indicates that there are few steps food and beverage production companies can take to address the challenges of managing their food manufacturing waste. One study out of Brunel University London and Ghent University attributes a significant portion of food waste to a lack of standardized process. An examination of the production processes at 47 food manufacturers in Belgium found that human error accounted for 11% of all food waste, second only to the losses recorded as a result of product change. On average, the manufacturers suffered a loss of 1 tonne of food for every 35 tonnes produced.
There remains the fact that some food waste is simply an unavoidable part of the commercial process of food preparation. As a result, organizations may find it more impactful to consider more efficient and cost-effective strategies for disposing of their waste.
The best solutions drive improvements at both ends of this problem.
A waste management investment that can save you money
Many commercial food preparation organizations find they can reduce outsourcing fees, and save time and money on waste hauling, through an investment in an on-site biodigester. Biodigesters use microorganisms in a natural process to break down waste in your food production area. The sealed equipment does not emit odors, and its only byproduct is greywater, which can safely be disposed of down the drain. Incorporating a biodigester into the food production line reduces the need to haul food waste to a disposal container and, by reducing the amount of food waste going off site, can dramatically cut down on the cost of hauling trash.
What’s more, some biodigesters come equipped with waste data analytics that can guide food production companies on process improvements. For example, the LFC biodigester features a continuous data analytics system and connection to the LFC Cloud, giving food production companies access to data on how much food manufacturing waste is digested hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. It also provides a breakdown on what type of waste is being digested through the use of NFC cards that can specify the type or source of the waste.
For many companies, the payback on an LFC biodigester can happen in under two years. This return accounts for reduction in the considerable costs of time and labor spent handling waste as well as simpler factors such as fewer pickups and fewer garbage bags purchased.
Get support for your biodigester investment
Even with its rapid payoff, a biodigester can be a considerable investment. However, many food and beverage production companies may find financial assistance in purchasing this equipment. For example, Australian food and drink manufacturers may have access to up to $25,000 for the purchase of energy-efficient technology. The Australian federal government is offering grants as part of its $19.9 million Energy Efficient Communities Program that aims to strengthen the uptake of energy-efficient technology and lower energy consumption among food and beverage manufacturing businesses. Energy-efficient biodigesters can fit that bill.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture provide grants to support investments in solutions that reduce business’ energy usage and food waste. Your accountant may be able to identify specific opportunities in your region to help offset the initial cost of this investment.
To learn more about how to reap long-term operational savings through the purchase of an on-site biodigester, contact Power Knot today.