Big Gains in Environment Management

01 Mar 2006Archived News Energetics in the News

A new report by the Australian Food and Grocery Council shows that about 90 per cent of waste and by-products from food and grocery manufacturers surveyed is being reused or recycled, with less than 10 per cent going to landfill.

The report also shows improvements in other areas. Industry participants have reduced energy use by 14 per cent, water use by 21 per cent and greenhouse emissions by 29 per cent since 2003.

"The Environment Report 2005 highlights industry progress, however it also points to the need for industry to continue to improve its environmental reporting," the Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Dick Wells, said.

"Manufacturers must meet competing demands in the use of packaging. Packaging prevents waste by protecting products on their way to the consumer, but then at the end of its life can become waste."

"This is a challenge for industry. Packaging needs to be robust enough to preserve product safety and integrity, but at the same time it needs to be designed so that the impact on the environment is minimised."

The AFGC strongly supports the National Packaging Covenant and is working with other industry bodies, brand owners and retailers to continue to minimise the impact of packaging, particularly away from home.

The report shows that the industry is not only continuing to improve its overall impact, but also its capacity to measure and report.

The companies that have achieved big gains in reducing waste have found innovative ways to make their operations more efficient.

Improvements come from taking a very close look at how materials are used and finding better ways to manage operations. For example, one company, a brewery, has been able to significantly reduce its waste by using its by-products more wisely.

The brewery has two main by-products: spent grain and waste yeast. The grain is being sold as cattle feed to farmers and the yeast is thermalised and tanked to pig farms for mixing with other nutrients for food.

The brewery also has been able to reduce its water and energy use. The reduction in energy use has resulted in a cut in greenhouse gas emissions by almost 21 per cent.

Water is being recycled into the brewery's gardens and grounds. Also, surplus water is being treated and irrigated over licensed fields and stormwater is returned to the metropolitan drain system, meaning that the local river is not contaminated by waste water.

Another example is a company that has managed to separate recyclable materials�such as particle board, plastics and vegetable matter� and take them out of the landfill stream. This has led to reductions of 2500m3 of material going to rubbish tips - equivalent to about 125 semi-trailer loads.

One way that the company is doing this is by taking the cardboard boxes used to transport the steel caps for baby food jars and giving them new life as storage boxes for furniture and household removalists.

"Despite the improvements, the challenge is not over. The industry will need to continue to be accountable and meet community expectations," Mr Wells said.

"More than 30 per cent of companies surveyed now have a full-time environment manager, an increase from 18 per cent in 1999."
The Environment Report 2005 is the third industry-wide review of the environmental performance of the food and grocery industry in Australia. The next report is due in 2007. To view a copy of the 2005 report, visit http://www.afgc.org.au.

Energetics undertook a review of the existing environmental survey and assisted with the analysis of the data and writing of the report.

For more information contact, Warren Overton at Energetics on 02 6297 5948 or 0407 274 823 or contact Rosie Schmedding at the AFGC on 02 6273 1466 or 0437 379 818.

(The Australian food and grocery sector employs more than 200,000 people, largely in country and rural areas, and contributes 2.5% to GDP.)

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