Case study

Food and drink business resource efficiency

Reducing waste from our food processing business - Natures Way Foods

Natures Way Foods (NWF), a member of the Langmead Group, supplies washed and ready-to-eat salad and salad meals to supermarkets and businesses in the food service sector. NWF operates four shifts per day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at its site in Selsey, West Sussex.

What we did

NWF reviewed its business operations with a view to improving efficiency and identified waste as a key area for improvement. They appointed an environmental team to focus on reducing waste, carrying out a waste review to identify all waste streams. NWF also worked with suppliers and improved work practices to minimise waste.

Reduced product wastage

Incorrectly sealed plastic bags and underweight bags are classed as rejects. NWF changed their processes so that these are now retrieved, the bags opened, and the product reclaimed and repackaged to minimise wastage. Reject packaging is separated for baling and recycling. This method of reclaim and rework, together with improved batch forecasting and investment in 'de-coring' technology, has reduced wastage significantly.

Composted green waste

All green waste is collected for composting off site, which costs less than disposal to landfill. The compost product is used as a soil conditioner on land owned by Langmead Farms, which improves water retention, resulting in an improved weight per head of lettuce.

Reused packaging

Most salad ingredients arrive on site in reusable tote boxes in cages or on pallets from the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool system, all of which are returned to the supplier for reuse. A few seasonal suppliers still use single-use plastic crates, which are recycled along with any broken crates and pallets. Most packaged salads are dispatched in reusable plastic crates rather than cardboard boxes.

Recycled cardboard and plastic

Cardboard and plastic packaging is separated and baled before its removal off site for recycling. The cardboard cores on which the packaging film is supplied cannot be returned to the supplier for reuse, but they are separated and sent for recycling. NWF is discussing possible alternatives with its supplier.

Staff involvement

Staff awareness of waste issues is raised and maintained by:

  • including waste issues in new employee inductions
  • demonstrating commitment to environmental awareness and providing appropriate training
  • installing a display screen in the canteen to convey information
  • posting information on noticeboards throughout the site

What the benefits were

The benefits of NWF's new approach included:

  • net cost savings of more than £65,000 a year
  • product yield increasing by 80 per cent through reclaim and rework
  • improved packaging management
  • some 1,600 tonnes a year of green waste and 285 tonnes a year of recyclable materials diverted from landfill