It’s frightening to think how much we are damaging our natural world, unknowingly, every single day. Previously the domain of ‘hippies’, being eco-conscious is now something that every single business in the world is expected to take seriously. It’s not just about hitting CSR targets, it’s about rewriting business models to encourage cultural and behavioural revolutions that impact bottom lines as well as the environment.
In the UK we’re doing pretty well. We have to be. We’re running out of landfill. The Guardian tells us that a report from waste and recycling company Suez concludes that the UK is heading towards a massive waste crisis.
From large multi-nationals to smaller start-ups, many business owners are taking note and are also growing wise to the fact that increased productivity comes from more efficient energy use.
The media is helping to guide us to a proactive course of action.
Phil Gilbert, Director of Customer Solutions at E.ON, told The Telegraph online: “Energy costs can have a significant impact on a business’s bottom line and putting yourself in control of your energy use – by cutting down waste, using smart technology to manage buildings, and possibly generating your own power – are all options to consider. If companies don’t show a commitment to sustainability they are simply out of the game.
“Investing in energy efficiency or in new generation technologies can make sound investments, often paying back in only a few years. Across Europe we are seeing customers actually profiting from improving their energy efficiency. As well as the bottom line impact, investing in new energy solutions can also unlock new growth and improve productivity and overall competitiveness.”
As a food manufacturer our focus is on the quality of our products, but at Quattro Foods in Portsmouth we have always strived to ensure that our processes are considerate of the environment. We were stumped by the gallons upon gallons of waste that was leaving our commercial kitchen every single day. It took some deeply creative thinking to work out how to turn our ‘dirty water’ into something useful.
We have always placed water usage and wastewater discharge high on our list of critical environmental issues, and our management team set out determinedly to find a solution.
True advocates of sustainability in the food manufacturing industry, the Quattro team had already installed a new wastewater treatment system – an innovative technology supplied by Siltbuster Process Solutions which removes residues such as fats, oils and greases from the water that we dispose of, ensuring that cleaner water leaves our site.
We use so much water in food manufacturing. Water is an ingredient as well as a cleaning source for machinery and work areas. It was crucial that we found a way of cleaning it before disposing of it.
In the food manufacturing industry at large, kitchens produce huge volumes of waste – including water but also other liquids and solids – mostly biodegradable. Our new system helps us clean all the water that goes down our drains after food production and cleaning.
The system ensures that large amounts of solids, fats and greases are captured and blocked from going down the drain. An ideal solution – great for our carbon footprint and even better for the sewers and drains under our kitchen.
This waste, once separated from the water, is collected by a treatment centre who further treat the waste to enable it to be used for animal feed. It is food waste, after all and we’re delighted that very little is going to waste. Literally!
It’s a truly effective solution but only tackles half the problem. We wanted to do more. Apart from cleaning our water, there must be something else we could do? It was an introduction to our neighbours, Veolia, a local environment business, which took us down this route to sustainability of which we are incredibly proud. The Veolia team has worked with us to increase our energy capacity by exchanging the remainder of our waste for electricity.
Our professional kitchen is now partly powered by green energy produced by our own waste. Sound clever? It is!
Our recent investment in improved blast-chilling equipment was exciting but came with its own worries. Our energy consumption would have increased to beyond what was available on site. We didn’t have to look far for a solution. Veolia had the answer.
We are now signed up to receive power from Veolia’s energy recovery facility in the Copnor area of Portsmouth. Veolia provides a part of the 500 kVA need to power Quattro’s factory, which allows us to make full use of our new equipment whilst reducing electricity costs and improving our carbon footprint.
Sam Brower, Managing Director of Quattro Foods said: “We send the rest of our waste to Veolia and get it back in the form of electricity.”
Lee Phelan, General Manager of Veolia Environmental Services, said: “Supplying our neighbours with electricity direct from our facility in Portsmouth means we are taking the first steps in becoming a green energy supplier while building a network which could in future supply the area with combined heat and power.”
We like to think that the food and drinks industry is a leading light in the movement towards greener business. American ice-cream company Ben & Jerry’s was one of the first companies in the world to prioritise a social mission over all other aspects of its business. When they were bought by Unilever in 2000 they insisted on an independent board in order to maintain their high sustainability standards.
Increasing food production site sustainability is a challenging goal for the food manufacturing industry and at Quattro Foods we believe we are on the right road – but we can always do more for our productivity and for the environment. And so we challenge ourselves to continue innovating. Of course the government also has a part to play in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK. Business owners and lawmakers must work together. Watch this space!