IN DEPTH: Bracing for food waste changes

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Meiko advised dealers that allowances should be made for food waste management now rather than potentially causing future operational disruption.

Food waste management appliances could arguably be classed as the least glamourous facet of a professional kitchen, but that doesn’t mean they are the least important. With sustainability near the top of many operators’ agendas, catering equipment distributors must ensure they are up to speed with the latest food waste rules and regulations to ensure they can specify the most appropriate kit.

But when the legislation seems to be changing so often, this can prove highly confusing, and yet another update is on its way. Meiko UK, which provides waste management equipment, was one supplier keen to alert dealers on upcoming rule modifications in the UK. Specification director Mick Jary detailed: “With the Environment Bill expected to be legislated in December of this year, the industry cannot be fully prepared until we discover, probably at the end of October, what the Bill may bring. Currently, this is all still in its consultation process within the House of Lords.

“However, we are almost certain that all food waste management will be pushed towards being treated at anaerobic digestion plants across the UK for the provision of biofuels. This would then align with the government’s commitment towards Carbon Neutral 2050. We are also of the belief that waste to sewer will be made illegal and monitored more stringently, bringing this area back in line with the water authorities’ requests over many years.”

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Jary advised dealers: “So, for new build or refurbishment projects currently in discussion, the client should at least be made aware of what is on the horizon. There will be a period of grace for the industry to align with any new legislation but, with a client’s expectation of a 10-year lifecycle on a new kitchen, any period of conformity will be a lot less than that term.

“Therefore, allowances should be made for food waste management now rather than potentially causing any future operational disruption.”

At fellow supplier, Ecofast Environmental, director Steve Witt agreed: “With the new Environment Bill looming large on the horizon, dealers need to be aware of what will be classed as an approved solution and ensure that the equipment they select is fit for purpose. Buying the cheapest, or the most expensive, does not necessarily guarantee that it will be the right solution, so make sure the manufacturer explains the system thoroughly and how it can solve the problem at hand.

“At Ecofast, our advice to any consultant, designer or dealer would be to include a food waste management system in their design as this will help to future-proof the kitchen. If the client subsequently chooses to remove the system from the design, the dealer can at least say that they acted in the client’s best interest.”

Ecofast believes food waste systems should be specified by considering how much food waste a site produces and of what type.

He further underlined: “I would argue that those dealers who were early adopters of tackling food waste are very aware of the regulations where they need to be and have grasped the opportunity accordingly. In my opinion, the dealers who have not done so have largely been put off by the fact that each of the devolved governments across the UK has a differing approach to food waste and, to compound the issue, each is at a different stage of developing that approach. Fundamental to choosing the right system is understanding the client’s requirements. How much food waste is being produced? What type of waste is it?

“Once the new legislation comes into effect in England and Wales, non-compliance will potentially leave any person who fails to comply open to an unlimited fine. Over the years we have seen increasingly punitive financial fines for offenders who allow FOG to enter drains and cause blockages. To some extent FOG down a drain is easier to hide than food waste. If an operator doesn’t have a waste solution in place they will have to have all their food waste collected and this could potentially have a significant impact on the site’s operational profit.”

Elsewhere, Mechline’s marketing manager Kristian Roberts urged a more holistic view: “More consideration is needed of all the technologies on offer for a waste management system – treatment technology is only part of the picture. Tools and innovations that aid food waste prevention and reduction need to come first, and go hand in hand with treatment technology as part of a sustainable waste management system.

“It is estimated that 75% of the food waste thrown away by the hospitality and foodservice sector could have been avoided. This is food waste that could have been eaten, as opposed to unavoidable end-of-life food such as eggshells, bones, etc.

“The ultimate aim has to be to prevent food waste in the first place, and food-life extension technology is one way dealers can help operators get the most from existing stocks, to maximise their life and avoid wastage. Take our HyGenikx air and surface sanitisation system as an example, which has been shown to prolong the shelf-life of perishable fresh food by an average of 58% (approximately 7.5 days) – with some produce proving to last as much as 150% longer.”

Mechline feels that its HyGenikx air and surface sanitisation system can help operators prolong food’s shelf life and reduce waste.

Aftersales responsibilities should be taken just as seriously by distributors, he argued: “As with any waste management equipment, for it to perform as intended, maintenance is key, and dealers have a duty to ensure their operator customers are aware of ongoing servicing requirements upfront. Thankfully food life extension technology like HyGenikx requires very little maintenance, just a simple lamp change, nonetheless, it is very important.”

This specialist germicidal UV lamp, combined with titanium dioxide catalyst cleaning plates, is designed to eliminate any odours and harmful microorganisms drawn into the unit. The lamp needs to be replaced every 12 months, or after 8,000 hours of continual use, to ensure optimum performance.

However, for any food waste that does have to be managed, Roberts detailed: “Whilst recycling end-of-life food off-site is an option, there will still be a cost and environmental concerns (e.g. transportation) associated with this, especially when the net value of the waste product reprocessed is fully evaluated. On-site biodigesters, like Mechline’s Waste2O, are also an economical and environmental solution for dealing with end-of-life food, which avoid costly waste management fees – but the greatest opportunity comes from preventing food waste in the first place.”

Over at Filta Group, commercial director Edward Palin was keen to ensure that FOG (fats, oils and grease) management wasn’t forgotten about in the kitchen waste discussion. “FOG compliance is becoming an increasingly important issue for caterers, with water companies taking proactive steps to ensure the operator has grease management systems in place to prevent FOG from causing blockages,” he said. “Owners could be liable to enforcement action and the risk of unlimited fines and/or up to 2 years imprisonment if they fail to comply. It’s therefore vital that dealers are working with their customers to educate them and, most importantly, to specify the correct equipment.”

Filta has attempted to simplify the specification process for its dealer network, developing three services: the FOGSmart education programme for distributors; the FOGPartner service, where Filta attends site survey on behalf of dealers, before providing a quotation to the dealer which can be passed onto their customer; and FOGSure, a full CAD review and specification of any kitchen.

According to Palin: “We’re taking the hassle out of FOG management for dealers, at a time when water companies are really focusing on the issue. This really helps our dealer network to add value by guaranteeing compliance for their customers.”

The FiltaFOG Cyclone from Filta offers patented two-stage FOG separation and recovery.

And for ongoing servicing of equipment such as grease recovery units, he emphasised that these appliances are only effective if they are emptied and maintained in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. “Unfortunately this isn’t always a simple job for kitchen staff, and it can be a difficult and unhygienic job in some cases. Fortunately, the FiltaFOG Cyclone from Filta is built for a busy kitchen and we’ve taken this into account.

“Our easy-to-use unit, which offers patented two-stage FOG separation and recovery to deliver exceptionally high-quality recovered oil from kitchen wastewater, is constructed in 100% stainless steel with no moving parts. Crucially, it is a sealed outlet with no need for staff to remove the cover. This ensures that there are no odours, reduced cleaning time and a better kitchen environment too.”

The lowdown on legislation

The FEA has consistently lobbied the UK government on food waste matters, and so is well-versed in the ins and outs of regulations; so what would its advice be to distributors trying to find their way through this tangle of requirements? According to chair, Steve Hobbs: “Dealers can be forgiven for being confused, as there are so many variables. It depends on what country they are working in – England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – as there are differing national guidelines for the devolved administrations. The regulations can even differ by postcode in some countries, which means that different kitchens for the same multi-site operator may need to be configured differently.”

He set out: “The FEA position is that the industry can only maximise the capture and management of end of life food waste when complimentary systems are available for use across all foodservice operations. Any one system cannot be the solution for every situation. Technical, environmental, economic and practical issues are essential considerations for the operator, facilitator and the commercial foodservice designer.

“Any single, systemised technology approach will stifle innovation and will reduce the effectiveness of food waste management. Indeed, manufacturers are currently developing new systems and technologies that can enhance it, helping operators to increase their operational effectiveness while helping prevent or reduce food waste.”

With the Environment Bill going through the legislative process for England, FEA has worked with legislators to ensure the Bill takes account of its Food Waste Hierarchy. The association advised that some of the various technologies available are:

• Dewaterers, which reduce the mass of the food waste by up to 80% by mechanically grinding and dewatering thus removing and recycling the water content, making the resultant mass more valuable to AD plants. Storage mass reduction reduces collection cycles and costs, and vehicular emissions.
• Digesters, which produce grey water that is acceptable to water companies, and these are effective where heightened hygiene and safety issues are prevalent, and waste storage and logistics management can be issues. They recycle 70% of water from the waste.
• Sink to sewer disposal, whilst not the most desirable solution, enables separation at source, ensures that food waste can be a contributory element of the part of the sewage treatment process and it allows collection of fertilisers for further use. It adheres to animal byproduct legislation.
• In-vessel composters allow on-site use of material for organic purposes (thereby adhering to the animal byproducts legislation).
• Grease traps, grease removal units and bacterial dosing, when installed in a complementary manner to each other, minimise the FOG entering the sewer and, in the case of traps and GRUs, allow for collection of FOG.

FEA has also published a guide about how to reduce food waste. Developed as a resource for dealers, consultants and end users, it contains a summary of the legislation surrounding this area. It also details the best ways for operators in all sectors to comply with requirements, and shows steps that can be taken to improve overall efficiency.

Tags : ecofastFEAfiltafood wastefood waste disposalMechlineMeikoWaste managementwaste treatment
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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