Throwing food away shouldn’t be worthwhile
Hand on heart, we at Emmi waste food. Less so at our Swiss production facilities than those abroad, but there is room for improvement across the board. Reducing food waste is comparatively easy when it’s financially worthwhile, but becomes more complicated in situations where we dispose of food because it’s the simplest and cheapest solution. That’s why we’re addressing the issue of product loss at its root.
All our Swiss production facilities have professional waste management systems in place that are certified according to ISO 14001. This has enabled us to more than halve our waste volumes over the last ten years. Armed with this wealth of experience we are now visiting our foreign subsidiaries and helping them to reduce their waste volumes as part of the Emmi Operational Excellence (EOE) optimisation programme. When talking about food losses in the production process, appropriate measures are often worthwhile for ecological and economic reasons. After all, food lost during production has had to be produced, purchased and “disposed of” beforehand, all of which have environmental effects.
That’s why we’re convinced that we can reduce food waste substantially at all of our sites over the next few years.
Where food waste occurs
Studies show that 30 % of food waste in industrialised countries occurs during processing. We were confident that this was not the case for our Swiss production facilities, but wanted to know for certain. A first look at our waste statistics revealed that we rarely have to look for food waste in the dustbin. And yet we discovered a quantitative difference between input (i.e. milk) and output (the products we sell). So where was the milk that we were purchasing but not selling?
An initial pilot project carried out as part of a student’s Master’s thesis identified two key themes:
- Firstly, by-products accumulate in milk processing that would be fit for human consumption but are not beneficial to market. Specifically these are whey and butter milk, two high-quality dairy products for which is there is very little demand among Swiss consumers. These by-products are currently exported to neighbouring countries or used as animal feed. The former makes little sense in ecological terms, while the latter is officially defined as food waste since it’s not being used for human consumption. We agree with this definition on the basis that whey and butter milk are too costly to produce to be considered sustainable animal feed. Other, plant-based sources of protein and vitamins would be preferable here, which is why we want to make room for alternative, more sustainable ideas.
- Secondly, almost half of the food waste at our sites can be found in wastewater. This is mainly due to process-related factors such as the cleaning of machines and pipelines. Our goal here is to recover as much of the milk and product remains as possible and find sustainable subsequent solutions.
Establishing a solid basis for argument
You can only control what you can measure, which is why we are currently working on compiling a reliable database for food waste at our sites. Using the internationally acknowledged Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard) as a guideline, we’re in the process of setting up a food waste monitoring system at our Swiss facilities and can thus for the first time provide a concrete indication of the quantity of food waste.
This approach will enable us to take systematic measures to combat food loss in the production process.