Food is one of our basic requirements for life. It takes centre stage in family rituals and celebrations and is the star of many of the world’s most popular Instagram feeds. Yet every year one-third of the total amount the world produces – around 1.3 billion tonnes - is wasted.

That, says the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is not just a misuse of the world’s natural resources, it’s also a huge part of our carbon footprint – 8% of global emissions to be precise.

According to Project Drawdown, which champions the 100 most impactful solutions to reduce global warming, reducing food waste is No.3 on the hit list. “If 50% of food waste is reduced by 2050, avoided emissions could be equal to 26.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide,” the Project says.

And that’s just for starters. “Reducing waste also avoids the deforestation for additional farmland, preventing 44.4 gigatons of additional emissions.”

Achieving the ambition of cutting food waste depends on action across all parts of the food supply chain: reducing emissions from agriculture, revisiting purchase patterns and redistributing food before it is wasted.

This is a global challenge that our Foods and Refreshment team are putting front and centre. Closer to home in our UK and Ireland business, our best-known brands have been serving communities for years, such as Hellman’s, Colman’s Knorr, Marmite, Pot Noodle PG Tips, Wall’s ice creams, Magnum and Ben and Jerry’s. In fact, our products can be found in nine out of 10 homes in the UK and Ireland.

We’ve been working hard to reduce food waste as much as possible throughout our operations and we’ve made some great progress. Last year across our UK factories our food waste equated to just 1.7% of the total food we produced.

While our aim is to have no waste throughout our global operations, some food waste is an inevitable part of our operations, often for safety reasons. For example, when we change the flavour run on one of our ice cream machines, washing the line down first is a clear safety and hygiene necessity, and the run-off from this will count as waste.

Some of the loss from our production line we are able to save and repurpose so that it doesn’t become food waste.

Turning waste into power

In some of our sites, waste is captured and used to generate biogas, which provides power to run the factory or which is fed into the National Grid.

At our Burton factory, where Marmite is made, biogas provided about half of the power needed to run the factory in 2018.

Redistributing food

Last year more than 100 tonnes of food that couldn’t go to shops to be sold for reasons such as damaged packaging, was redistributed to Community Shop or to other partners, including Fareshare, a charity who redistributes surplus food to charities who turn it into meals. And more than 10,000 tonnes of food from across our UK factories was sent to feed animals in 2018.

  • Our Gloucester ice cream factory reworks any ice cream products that do not meet quality specifications into other products otherwise the food waste is incorporated into animal feed, including for some very lucky pigs!
  • Part of the yeast by-product produced during the manufacturing process for Marmite at our Burton factory is now sent for animal feed. We have been able to move this waste further up the food waste hierarchy, where it was previously used to spread on land as fertiliser.
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