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Four steps to achieve zero waste to landfill – United Biscuits

By Oliver Nieburg , 28-Feb-2012

Zero waste to landfill helps United Biscuits save around £100,000 a year
Zero waste to landfill helps United Biscuits save around £100,000 a year

United Biscuits (UB) recently became the first major UK food manufacturer to achieve zero waste to landfill at its UK sites. Its sustainability head shares ways other manufacturers can do the same.

1. Commit to a goal

Jeff van der Eems, Chair of UB’s Sustainability Committee and COO, told BakeryAndSnacks.com that companies must first commit to an absolute goal and establish clear time metrics.

United Biscuits set targets for zero waste to landfill in an environmental programme in 2008. There it agreed a goal for 2015. However, it was on-course to achieve its goal ahead of schedule and moved forward targets for zero waste for food to 2012.

Van der Eems said pilot schemes were undertaken to establish methods of best practice centred on a “reduce, reuse, recycle” policy.

He said reducing was the best approach. For example UB looked at the entire supply chain and worked with suppliers to limit the amount of non-value added materials entering factories, such as shrink wrap and baling wires

2. Harness energy of teams

Van der Eems said that a lot could be gauged from company employees who know where waste is coming from.

UB for example sent questionnaires to its employees to help it establish its sustainability strategy.

“There’s so much people can do. It’s almost embarrassing we hadn’t done it before,” said Van der Eems.

Employees suggested removing bins from people’s desks and installing coloured recycling containers.

Van der Eems said people were forced to get up to place waste in the containers which helped develop awareness among staff.

“We added the fun element. If you reduce waste more than other sites you get to go to Silverstone,” he said.

3. Measure progress against goal

According to Van der Eems: “The basic thing is measuring. You have to measure what you do.”

He estimated that zero waste to landfill would help UB save £100,000 per year at its UK sites.

Asked if it was a costly operation to set-up, he said: “Water recycling was a big investment, but the most expensive thing we did here was hiring bins.”

Although, zero waste to landfill has been achieved at UB's 16 UK sites, it has not quite reached this level internationally. It has four other production sites in continental Europe and one in India. All bar one is zero waste to landfill.

Van der Eems said its facility in Belgium was remote and still sent some waste to incineration for energy. He expected zero waste to be achieved at this site by 2013.

4. Be single minded

Van der Eems said the final step was to make clear to staff that there is no alternative.

“It helped us run the factories leaner and cleaner. You don’t have clutter. Nothing is there that’s not needed,” he said.

“Every company can take out a lot of waste if not zero,” he concluded.

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