This year’s National Recycling Award winner for Efficiency Initiative of the Year was Premier Foods and Biffa IWM. Andrea Lockerbie looks at why
Premier Foods, one of the UK’s largest food manufacturers of household brands such as Hovis and Mr Kipling, has been tackling resource efficiency at the organisation head on.
The judges called it “a brilliant project that, through its analysis of the supply chain led to a simple but effective solution and excellent resource efficiency”.
Its journey started when waste management company Biffa IWM began managing the waste from a Premier Foods jam factory in Cambridge. Recognising the high calorific value of the sugary by-product, the company was able to sell the waste for energy generation in an anaerobic digestion facility rather than pay for its disposal. This shift in practice saw the site generating £80,000 per year from its energy-rich feedstock.
Fast-forward to 2013 and a growing number of sites are making dramatic changes to their waste management practices. Premier Foods has two company-wide targets for the end of 2013: zero waste to landfill and zero net spend on waste management.
Not satisfied with the option of sending non-recyclable waste for incineration, Premier Foods has been looking further up the waste hierarchy, addressing its supply chain and operational procedures to maximise resource efficiency.
For example, the Hovis bakeries had been purchasing cooking fat which came from the supplier in an LDPE wrapper inside a cardboard box. Recycling the cardboard box was an obvious win, but the residues on the LDPE wrapper meant that it could not be cost-effectively recycled. This part of the waste stream could have gone to energy from waste, due to its high calorific value, but Premier Foods decided that a change in the raw ingredient could be the answer. Trials at a number of sites then took place, replacing the ingredient with a dry fat product. This was a potentially risky change for the company that could have had implications on the final product and therefore the loyalty of its customer base. But the switch proved successful and Premier Foods eliminated the LDPE waste stream from its Hovis bakeries and made significant savings on operational costs, without impacting on its final product. Similar initiatives have taken place in other parts of the business.
One of the key changes to maximising resource efficiency has been the introduction of line-side recycling at its manufacturing plants. This has required mapping each factory floor, identifying all waste-generating processes, then installing segregated waste containers as close as possible to the point of generation.
Factory footprints have historically been designed around the manufacturing process, not recycling bins, so this has been a challenge and culture change for the various sites. But investment in manager and employee engagement, keeping it simple and educating staff has made it work.
“The award is really recognition for everybody in Premier Foods, from the shop floor right up to senior management who put enormous effort into segregation and recycling right across the organisation. It requires focus from everyone, from top to bottom.”
James Petrie, head of category operational support, Premier Foods
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