UK manufacturers face pressure to reduce environmental impact

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cent Food and drink Pollution

The UK's food and drink manufacturers and retailers will come under
more pressure to recycle more and cut the amount of waste they
produce, according to an Environment Agency report.

The agency will develop a plan for the food and drink industry over the next 12 months to help the industry improve its environmental performance "beyond compliance and into the wider area of resource efficiency and sound environmental management".

"As well as this we want to produce a voluntary sector plan with the British Retail Consortium,"​ the agency stated. "Linking these plans together will create real opportunities to work with both these important industries to influence the types and volumes of waste that are eventually disposed of as household waste."

EU wide environmental laws are putting pressure on the food industry to cut down on the amount of waste they produce, both from their factories and from the packaging they use for their products.

The UK's food and drink sector produces 14 per cent of the waste from all the sectors the Environmental Agency regulates, the second biggest producer after fuel and power.

It produced about two and a half million tonnes of waste in 2005, almost all of which was non-hazardous. The sector recovers 70 per cent of its waste, above average for all the regulated sectors.

Thirteen food and drink businesses received large fines for environmental offences last year.

The food and drink sector uses large amounts of energy and water and produces large amounts of waste. Its releases to air and water are low, the agency stated.

About 305 food and drink plant sites are now covered by the environmental legislation, many for the first time in 2005, the agency noted.

The agency ow regulates about five times more sites than in 2004 through the introduction of Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) regulations to the sector.

Only about 30 per cent of food and drink sites rated in the top band for operator environmental performance, under the rating system used by the agency

. However, this figure represents an increase of 17 per cent on 2004.

Ten plants were rated as poor environmental performers in the lowest band last year, representing three per cent of all food and drink sites.

The sector's poorest performers include MPP Holdings Ltd's Bury St Edmunds site, two of 2 Sisters Food Products Ltd's poultry processing sites in Suffolk and in Nottinghamshire, the latter which is now closed, Cott Beverages' Citrus Grove and Bondgate sites, Princes Ltd's Princes Soft Drinks Division (UK) in Manchester, and NuPetra Ltd's Ascot Pet Ingredients site.

The agency reported big improvements in environmental management at Westbury Dairies, which rose to the second level in the rating system from the the fourth brand.

Regulated sites breached permits 30 times last year. The breaches had the potential to cause serious environmental harm, the agency stated.

The sector caused five per cent of all serious industrial pollution incidents that caused actual harm to the environment in 2005.

"We were disappointed to see a 29 per cent rise in the number of incidents,"​ the agency stated. "Only seven serious incidents were from sites we regulate."

About 30 per cent of the UK's food and drink manufacturers say their priority is to improve waste management, with 21 per cent saying they spend at least 20 per cent more on waste reclamation and management during the year ahead, according to a recent survey by easyFairs. Another 24 per cent are looking to improve their environmental impact across all areas including packaging.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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