Food and beverage companies have majorly contributed to our growing global waste crisis. But tightening legislation, along with market volatilities and unprecedented pressure on our planet’s resources, are forcing the industry to rethink their processes and cut their carbon appetites. By making small changes across the value chain, food and beverage producers can work to reduce or even eliminate some of their traditional waste streams. Here are some ways that companies can take action today:

Packaging

Of course, nothing is more notoriously wasteful in the food and beverage industry than its packaging left in the consumers’ wake. Over one million plastic bottles are sold every minute to date, with less than 10% of these products recycled back into the circular economy.  Through the Extended Producer Responsibility, a more recent and evolving legislation on the SA legal front, beverage producers will be held liable for the end life of these discarded bottles. This will mean that businesses will be paying heavy punitive fees for consumer behaviour that is arguably outside of their control. 

The most obvious way to mitigate this risk is by increasing the recyclability of your current products. This could mean replacing current materials with recyclable materials, such as plant-based materials . It could also mean reducing your non-recyclable waste, by mixing biodegradable materials into the product design (eg having a high density plastic bottle with a PET label and a Polypropylene cap).   

Companies can also look to optimise their packaging design by making them more ergonomic, user-friendly and efficient. For example, by making milk cartons easier to open and seal tight, they can avoid spillage or spoiling that leads to unnecessary waste. Package design that accounts for better usability and less material waste can win companies a wider profit margin and lighter carbon footprint over time.

Wastewater reduction

It’s estimated that, for every bottle of water manufactured, six times that amount of water is required for its production. In some cases, production makes up approximately 40% of the total water consumption on-site, of which 60% becomes effluent. Considering that South Africa is a water-scarce country, this reality is a sobering and serious one. High levels of post-production wastewater threatens to deplete an already-diminishing resource in our country. It also leads to pollution, ill health and the destabilisation of our ecosystem.

Companies would do well to question their processes and systems, and see where inefficiencies lie within the chain. The easiest place to start is with the manufacturing plant itself. Perhaps the equipment or formation lines are not designed for streamlined operation? Maybe the maintenance has been neglected? The more effectively that businesses can tighten up the tap on wastewater, the less money they will spend on municipal fines and disposal costs down the line.

Energy efficiency

Manufacturing processes within the food and beverage industry require high energy outputs, which is not only costly but environmentally unsustainable. Of course this has implications on a company’s bottom line, as high carbon emissions will result in heavy tax liabilities through SA’s most recent Carbon Tax. Come January 2020, the food and beverage industry will be subject to an emission threshold of 10 megawatts. 

Given this reality, companies should already be looking at innovative ways to lessen their fossil fuel dependence through energy optimisation. Systems such as compressed air and motor systems are energy-intensive systems that can possibly be replaced or improved; better maintenance processes and scheduling can make a measurable difference to lower energy usage. 

In today’s world of waste innovation, there are many ways for your business to consider a transition to a green economy. Smartmatta is able to equip your company with value-add solutions that will catalyse innovation and fuel sustainable momentum on the road to ethical waste management. Contact us today to see how we can help your business move towards a rewarding zero waste future. 

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