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5 Tips to reduce process waste in food manufacturing

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​According to statistics published by WRAP, one of the UK’s leading sustainability charities, “The UK generates around 19 million tonnes of food waste per year, with the food production sector accounting for just under half of this”.

WRAP, who following its successful launch of Food Waste Action Week last Spring, are leading the call to action by running a second Food Waste Action Week from the 7th to 13th March.

During Food Waste Action Week, WRAP, encourages UK citizens, together with businesses across hospitality, manufacturing, retail sectors and government, to come together to raise awareness and demonstrate the impact of wasted food on the planet.

Here in Wales, the Welsh Government recently published it strategic vision for Wales’ food and drink sector, “A Vision for the Food & Drink industry from 2021 - Building on our success”. One of the Welsh Government’s aims in this report is, “to take specific action to set ambitious targets to halve food waste, and prevent biodegradable materials going to landfill, by 2025”.

To demonstrate our support during Food Waste Action Week 2022 and raise awareness with food and drink manufacturers in Wales, as to how they can manage waste control within a factory setting and/or production area - our technical expert and food waste specialist, Gavin Taylor, has five key tips for food manufacturers, as follows:

1 – Walk your process. Often, when a product is developed and goes into manufacturing, it can be forgotten. An example of this is, when a live product is launched and has never been re-evaluated to check it is continually performing as originally forecast. Always look back at your products and their processes, are they still fit for purpose? Are there any steps that are no longer required, and can now be taken out of the process hence saving time, labour, and waste?

2 – Weigh, Weigh, Weigh. Make sure you are using SIC [or short interval control]. You need to weigh at each stage of your process and careful monitoring is required. Check whether the weights you are monitoring are as expected; if not, why not? This is a proven way to help you easily identify production loss and put in corrective measures to reduce food waste.

3 – Check your equipment. Are your scales calibrated? Is your machinery working properly and effectively? Uncalibrated or, poorly set up machinery and kit, can lead to wasting raw materials. In addition, in some instances, the incorrect formulation of a product, can not only lead to waste, but a rejected final product too!

4 - Carry out checks on raw material deliveries. Are you getting what you pay for? It is mostly assumed that when you order raw materials that you are delivered exactly what you ask for. However, this is not always the case. It is prudent to carry out regular checks on what is coming in to make sure you are getting exactly the weight/volume you are expecting. Incorrect deliveries can lead to more expensive raw materials, but also may affect the final product formulation. In addition, inaccuracies can also result in rejected batches and food waste.

5 - Ask your production operators. Who knows your products the best? Your production staff! One of the simplest ways to identify waste or, areas of potential waste, is to ask your operators, who are the people closest to the product and the process. Empower your operators to raise concerns over waste during all parts of the process and encourage them to bring forward any ideas they may have, to improve processes in a bid to manage and eradicate waste in their working areas.

Our process waste management expert, Gavin Taylor, can also support Welsh food and drink manufacturers, by helping them to identify ways to possibly reuse/redistribute process waste that cannot be easily eliminated in other products and/or identify ways of recycling back into the production process. Corrective action plans can be put in place to encourage continuous improvement in waste reduction, factory waste controls, process design and development.

If you have found Gavin’s tips useful and would like an informal chat about the funded support that our ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre can offer Welsh food and drink companies, please get in touch with Gavin Taylor, Process Waste Technologist by email: gjtaylor@cardiffmet.ac.uk or call 07584 313292.

Eligible companies can receive assistance from ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre with waste reduction, process efficiency/improvement, sustainable new product development and compliance with sustainable food standards through the Welsh Government and EU-backed Project HELIX.