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A feast of data drives baker’s zero waste plan

Since 2011, New York Bakery Company (NYB), now part of global baking company Grupo Bimbo, has been working with waste and recycling partner Biffa IRM to address its operational waste streams.

The goal was to achieve zero waste, for both financial and environmental reasons.

The concept of zero waste is sometimes viewed as a utopian dream. Particularly in the manufacturing sector, it is not easy to eliminate waste from the complete range of processes and multiple sites. But that is just what NYB has achieved: with years of commitment and effort, the UK’s largest bagel manufacturer is diverting 97.4% of its waste from disposal routes.

Each of its sites in Rotherham and Maidstone has two site managers who are appointed as ‘waste champions’. Reporting directly to the head of health, safety and environment, the waste champions are responsible for:

  • Identifying new opportunities
  • Trialling and developing initiatives
  • Engaging, empowering and motivating colleagues to help the company innovate in its waste reduction strategies
  • Managing the data collection and reporting for the recently awarded ISO 14001 certification standard

The waste champions are supported by other colleagues at different points along the production line, meaning there is direct communication across the entire company about resource use and waste management.

Each morning, members of the production team, including the waste champions, meet to check the latest telemetry readings, identifying any issues or anomalies and ensuring everything is running efficiently. Once a month, staff from Biffa join the meetings to discuss any opportunities for further waste reduction.

The company then holds quarterly review meetings with all stakeholders – engineering, health and safety, waste champions and Biffa – in an open forum, working through a prioritised action list to maximise opportunities to eliminate waste. For example, one of the current actions is to undertake a composition analysis of the small amount of residual waste being generated.

The general manager of NYB attends these meetings, along with a group project manager whose role it is to bridge the gap between the supply chain/procurement activities and waste arisings. The target now is to reduce the overall quantity of waste, so this collaborative team approach is vital.

NYB has shown real determination on its path to zero waste. The low-hanging fruit has long-since been picked and it is now facing the law of diminishing returns, with the most minor and challenging waste streams left to divert from landfill.  

In 2013, the company’s sustainable resource management activities were resulting in 2.9% residual waste that was unavoidable and non-recyclable. In 2014, this was successfully driven down to 2.6% and NYB is engaging with its supply chain on this last remaining element.

NYB is now diverting 97.4% of its waste from disposal routes and has the remaining 2.6% processed into refuse-derived fuel for energy recovery. While it would, of course, prefer to be generating absolutely nothing that cannot be recycled, it views the recovery of energy from unavoidable wastes as the best option currently available. Recovering the energy from these waste streams helps to ensure it sends nothing to landfill, saving the company money on landfill tax and providing a partially renewable energy source in the process.

Since recognising the effectiveness of the telemetry system for its co-product, NYB has installed a dashboard that shows the use of all its resources, including water and energy. This helps the business to cut its direct carbon emissions and indirect carbon footprint, as well as saving money.

R3MC, Biffa’s consultancy arm, has been working in close partnership with NYB to audit the company’s processes and develop a five year plan to reduce environmental impacts. The business recently achieved ISO 14001 certification and will continue to improve its environmental impacts and reduce operational costs in the process.

NYB has shown that achieving zero waste is possible – not just zero waste to landfill, but actually generating very little that cannot find a new home. It takes a supportive and informed waste management partner, commitment from management and operatives, and a little investment to achieve zero waste, but the impact to the business’s bottom line has made the whole process commercially worthwhile.

Mark Jones is head of health, safety and environment at New York Bakery Company

What materials are in the residual waste stream?

  • Heavily printed multi-material bread bags. Some of these are now being extracted for recycling, and NYB is working with its suppliers to eliminate this waste stream altogether
  • Floor sweepings from the yard
  • Canteen waste, such as heavily contaminated packaging

A feast of data drives baker’s zero waste plan

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